When you were young, you probably appreciated saliva for its unique property used for grossing other kids out. Spit was handy when spitting, drooling, or simply storing up in your mouth for an undefined later use. By now, most of us have outgrown spitting for entertainment. We still have saliva, so what’s it for?
Why We Have Spit
First and foremost, saliva protects your mouth. Saliva moves around the mouth, covering the teeth and gums with a thin film that protects against tooth decay and gum disease. Saliva even has the ability to kill some kinds of bacteria! It also has minerals to rebuild tooth enamel and enzymes to neutralize food acids that can break down the enamel.
Spit is also the first step in your food digestion. The enzymes contained in it begin to break down the starches in foods, and add moisture to soften it for easy swallowing.
Have you ever had a dry mouth from a medication, dehydration, or illness? Your gums and tongue can become swollen and quite uncomfortable. Saliva keeps your tongue, gums, and mouth comfortable and lubricated. This is handy because dry mouth leads to germs. They love to hide in there. The end result of a dry, germy mouth is bad breath. Saliva fights those germs and prevents bad breath!
How much spit do you think your salivary glands make in a day? Around two to four pints. That’s one to two quarts! Further math says that is up to a half-gallon a day. That’s a lot of spit.
Dry mouth can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease. If there isn’t enough saliva to wash the food out of your teeth, we all know what happens.
What can you do if have dry mouth? Drinking water, chewing sugar-free gum, or sucking on sugar-free hard candy can all help stimulate your salivary glands to keep your mouth moist. Here’s something that you should know: Brushing and flossing your teeth every day can keep your mouth healthy—including your salivary glands. Regular dental exams are important. Your dentist examines your entire mouth and may spot an issue early before you have problems.
Too Much Saliva
Sometimes, you may find that you have too much spit. This could be the result of an overactive salivary gland or a swallowing disorder. Often, you’ll notice more saliva production when you eat spicy foods. Your taste buds put out a distress signal for the salivary glands to make more saliva! This also happens with sour or acidic foods. It’s a temporary increase, but if it really bothers you, consider changing your diet.
If you have problems swallowing, or are producing so much saliva that it results in drooling,
1-205-655-4300 to make an appointment with Dr. Dobbs or Dr. Adkins. Bring a medication list with you to your appointment as some meds cause increases in saliva production.
Spit is Good
Even though you aren’t having spitting contests or making spitballs, saliva is important to your overall health. *Disclaimer: Do not use this content as an excuse to start making spitballs.