Everything You Need to Know About Saliva

close up of smiling drooling baby

Spit is much more important than you probably think it is. Everyone knows that when it comes to good oral care, brushing your teeth and flossing every day are very important. However, did you know that from a young age, saliva also plays a big role in your oral health? While we have control over how well we take care of our teeth, we have less power over our saliva production. Luckily, there are a few ways you can ensure that your child is producing the right amount of saliva they need for good oral health at a young age. Read on to learn more about all the great things that spit does for our health, and how you can support healthy saliva production!

What exactly is saliva?

Saliva, also known as spit, is a clear liquid produced by the multiple salivary glands in the mouth. These glands are found on the inside of each cheek, under the tongue, and under the jaw at the very front of the mouth. Together, these glands work 24/7, and secrete about 2 to 4 pints of spit per day! Saliva is about 98% water, and also contains substances naturally produced by your body like electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and enzymes. These substances serve different functions, including breaking down food particles and routinely cleaning your mouth.

What does saliva do for us?

As pediatric dentists, we are most interested in the ways that saliva works to keep your child’s smile clean and healthy. However, saliva also serves several other very important functions and contributes to overall health! The enzymes found in saliva actually aid digestion by breaking down your food before it even reaches your stomach. This is a critical first step for healthy, regular digestion. Saliva also helps your tongue taste all the delicious food you eat! If you didn’t have spit, your tongue would be dry and unable to taste all the wonderful flavors you enjoy every day. Saliva also wets your food as you chew it to allow for easier swallowing.

How does saliva impact a child’s oral health?

Saliva actually serves a great purpose in our oral health. The antibacterial properties in spit helps clean our teeth and mouth between meals, and spit also rinses food particles from between your teeth throughout the day. The enzymes in saliva actually help reduce bad bacteria in your mouth too! Saliva also makes eating possible. It would be very difficult to chew dry foods without saliva to dampen and break down your bites. In addition, spit contains proteins that help protect tooth enamel, and saliva can even reduce bad breath!

Is my child is producing the right amount of saliva?

Most young people actually produce the appropriate amount of saliva naturally, as long as they are hydrating and keeping a fairly balanced diet. However, dry mouth can occur at an early age as a side effect of certain medications and conditions. Since saliva is comprised of about 98% water, make sure your child is staying hydrated! Sometimes tricks like chewing (sugar free!) gum can help regulate your child’s saliva production. Dr. Erwin, a holistic dentist from Glendale, recommends using xylitol gum to stimulate saliva for those who need a little help. If you are concerned about your child’s saliva production levels, consult with their pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

Wow, spit is awesome! If you are concerned about your child’s oral health, schedule their first pediatric dental appointment with us today!