As much as we may think that spit is gross, it turns out that saliva is an essential part of mouth health. We need saliva to properly process food, and to maintain the natural balance of bacteria in the mouth. Without saliva, a number of potentially serious issues may arise, which may lead to expensive treatments down the line.
What Happens When Your Mouth Can’t Produce Saliva?
Known as ‘dry mouth syndrome,’ the inability to produce saliva affects about 10% of the population, according to some sources. However, the symptom–a dry mouth–can be a sign of a variety of issues, from a bacterial infection, to crystallized saliva, to cysts or tumors.
The effects of dry mouth syndrome arise from the absence of all of the beneficial things that saliva provides for us. For example, there are a number of defense mechanisms suspended in saliva, and delivered to our mouths through our salivary glands. Saliva frequently acts as one of the first lines of defense against the various bacteria, viruses, and fungi that are all found in our mouths. Likewise, the chemical composition of saliva can help to neutralize the acidic compounds that these foreign bodies produce. When saliva is no longer being produced in the mouth, it provides the bacteria an opportunity to gain a foothold, growing and damaging our mouths at a greatly increased rate. In addition to defensive properties, saliva helps to deliver ‘re-mineralizing’ compounds to our teeth reversing the damage that bacteria causes and keeping our teeth strong and healthy.
Without being able to produce enough saliva, our mouths aren’t able to properly defend against infection, or repair the damage caused by bacteria. This can lead to a greater risk of swollen gums known as gingivitis–inflammation caused by bacterial irritation–and periodontitis, which is an infection that causes the degradation of the soft tissue and bone in your mouth. And, though dry mouth is often completely treatable, leaving it untreated can open your mouth to unnecessary risk.
Dry Mount Treatment
Treating dry mouth varies from person to person. Based on the cause of dry-mouth syndrome, different treatments may apply, ranging from adjustments to your medication regimen (if the cause of your dry-mouth is the side-effect of a medicine you’re taking,) to prescribing medication to stimulate saliva production. Likewise, there are a number of home remedies that may help to address a dry mouth, including chewing sugar-free gum and using a room humidifier at night.
Of course, it goes without saying that, if your dry-mouth persists, contact your dentist and physician. It is possible that a dry mouth can indicate a more serious health issue that may need further treatment.
If you are experiencing a persistent dry mouth, don’t ignore it! As gross as it can be, saliva is important. Contact us if you’re worried about your dry mouth!