Role of Saliva In Oral Health

Saliva, a thick, colourless, opalescent fluid that is constantly present in the mouth is composed of mainly water, proteins, mucous, minerals, salts and enzymes.

Saliva is produced by three major glands i.e. the parotid, the sub – mandibular gland and the sub-lingual. And a few other minor salivary glands.

Our saliva is basically protective in nature. It exerts a major influence on tartar formation by mechanically cleaning all exposed oral surfaces. It buffers acids produced by bacteria and controls bacterial activity. Saliva contains numerous antibacterial factors and antibodies.

Saliva has many functions :

Physical protection: mucoids and glycoproteins help coat the oral surfaces to give protection to underline structures.

Lubrication: Mucoids and glycoproteins present in saliva helps keep your mouth and throat lubricated and comfortable.

Cleaning: The physical flow of saliva helps clear the debris and bacteria.

Buffering: Bicarbonates and phosphates present in saliva act as antacids.

Tooth integrity: Minerals within the saliva help in maturation and remineralization of tooth.

Antibacterial: This action includes control of any bacterial colonization, breaking of bacterial cell walls and oxidation of susceptible bacteria.

Salivary amylase: helps to break down starches in food.

Saliva also contains coagulation factors that hasten blood coagulation and protect wounds from bacterial invasion. A mixture of glycoprotein components in saliva appears to make up salivary mucin. This mucin concentration is primarily responsible for the control of salivary viscosity.

Saliva also contains vitamins like Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine, Pantothenic acid, Biotin, Folic acid and Vitamin B12, Vitamin C and Vitamin K.

In short, saliva exerts a major influence on tartar initiation, maturation and metabolism. Calculus(tartar) formation, gum diseases and caries (decay in teeth) are also influenced by salivary flow and its composition. There is an increase in inflammatory gingival disease, dental caries and rapid tooth destruction associated in decreased salivary glands secretion (xerostomia). Xerostomia maybe the result of a variety of factors, amongst them are: Sjogdren’s Syndrome, blockades in ducts of salivary glands, Mikulicz’s diseases, irradiation and surgical removal of the salivary glands.

On the other hand if you have a lot of saliva all the time it could be the side effect of a medication or the result of a medical condition or diseases.

– By Dr. Siena Pacheco