A healthy adult normally produces about three pints of saliva each day. Saliva plays a very important role in maintaining your health.The enzymes present in the saliva helps in digestion.Saliva helps in talking and prevents the tooth decay.
Researchers have found that among many proteins in saliva, lactoferrin, a glycoprotein plays a role as antibacterial and prevents the adhesion of S.mutans, a cariogenic bacteria to the tooth. Saliva washes away all the food debris from the oral cavity. It neutralizes the damaging acids and minerals present in it helps repair microscopic tooth decay.
Significance of Saliva
Less production of saliva or dry mouth (xerostomia) can irritate the soft tissues in the mouth making it more prone to infection. Xerostomia can occur due to nervousness, stress, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, salivary gland obstruction, medications (antidepressants, anxiety drugs, and blood pressure medications), aging, cancer therapy (radiation/chemotherapy) and autoimmune disorders like Sjogrens syndrome.Without the cleansing effects of saliva, it can cause tooth decay and other oral health problems like bad breath (halitosis).
How to Handle This?
- Increase the fluid intake.
- Chewing sugar free gum or suck on sugar free candy.
- Avoid tobacco use.
- Restrict the intake of caffeine,alcohol and carbonated beverages.
- Brush after every meal to remove the debris from the teeth.
- Physician or a dentist can evaluate the underlying salivary gland problem or if it is caused by the medicine, dosage can be changed.Salivary substitute or oral moisturizer or prescription medicine will be given to stimulate the salivary flow.
Overproduction of saliva can happen when one of the salivary gland is overactive or if there is any problem with swallowing.It’s normal that salivary production is more when you eat spicy or acidic foods. Chronic drooling can be seen in patients with poor muscle control on face and mouth. Some disease conditions like cerebral palsy, Bell’s palsy, mental retardation, Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, rabies and stroke and some seizure and schizophrenic drugs can cause increased production of saliva.
How to Handle this?
- Prescription medicine like glycopyrolate or scopolamine
- Botox injections to the salivary glands.
- Surgery to remove the salivary gland or re-route the salivary duct.