Saliva Protects Teeth Differently than Previously Thought

saliva photo
Photo by anselm
Saliva may offer more protection from the bacteria that cause cavities than scientists previously believed, according to the results of a recent study.

Cavities are a significant oral health problem and one of the leading causes of tooth loss. Untreated cavities can also lead to dental health issues such as periodontal disease, which can further contribute to tooth loss and a deterioration of bone structure in the jaws. If you believe you are suffering from tooth decay, or if you are already missing teeth, it’s advisable to consult with your dentist.

You can Call Me Saliva

Human saliva is 99.5 percent water. Among the .5 percent that is not water are electrolytes, enzymes, antibacterial agents and salivary mucins.

Salivary mucins are glycoproteins long believed to play a role in saliva’s gel-like structure. But the findings of a recent study, which were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Biology, indicate that salivary mucins also help defend against the bacteria that lead to tooth decay as well as other pathogens.

Studying Saliva

The slobbery study examined interactions between salivary mucins and Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria common in the human mouth and a major contributor to tooth decay.

Researchers found that while salivary mucins do not alter levels of S. mutans or kill the bacteria, the glycoproteins do suspend the bacteria in liquid, thus reducing the ability of the bacteria to form plaque. This is significant, as researchers noted in their report, because S. mutans can only contribute to cavities as biofilm attached to the surface of a tooth or teeth.

Healthy Bacteria

Your mouth contains all sorts of bacteria; some harmful, some innocuous, some healthy. The research also suggested that a person’s oral health may be better maintained when those healthy bacteria and other naturally present agents are allowed to do their job; some mouthwashes, for example, are effective at killing harmful bacteria, but they may also be limiting the power of the beneficial bacteria.

Previous study has shown that, among other benefits, healthy bacteria in the mouth can help reduce the effects of the gaseous bacteria on the tongue and gumlines that contribute to halitosis, or chronic bad breath. Researchers believe that nurturing these healthy bacteria, as well as natural defenses like salivary mucins, may eventually prove more beneficial than relying on external protectors such as sealants.

Austin, Texas, dentist Dr. Dan Matthews understands that a beautiful smile is also a healthy smile. If you’re seeking a knowledgeable cosmetic dentist in the Austin area, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call 512-520-0606 to schedule your consultation.

Dan Matthews DDS
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Austin, Texas, 78746
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