Your Mouth’s Most Powerful Natural Defense Against Decay

We all know what saliva is, but few of us know the important role it plays in oral health.  Let’s take a closer look at the causes of tooth decay and how saliva prevents it.  What causes tooth decay?  Plaque acids are one of the main causes of tooth decay.  They are produced by bacteria that live in our mouths after we eat and drink. How do plaque acids cause tooth decay?  Plaque acids attack our teeth and dissolve important minerals in enamel and root surfaces of teeth.  This weakens the teeth and can lead to decay over time.

How does saliva prevent decay?  Saliva contains important elements such as bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate.  These not only neutralize plaque acids, but they remineralize and repair tooth surfaces on a continual basis.  This is necessary for keeping strong healthy teeth.  Acidic foods and especially soft drinks severely damage teeth by softening the tooth structures faster than saliva can remineralize and strengthen the teeth. 

Many things can reduce the amount of saliva and therefore lead to tooth decay and faster tooth wear: 

1.      A large number of medications

2.      Chemotherapy

3.      Cancer radiation treatment in the head and neck area

4.      Normal aging process

5.      Certain auto immune diseases

6.      Salivary gland pathologies

 

The reduction of saliva has been called dry mouth syndrome or zerostomia.  There are many things people can do to help reduce the devastating effects of reduced saliva.

1.      Increase home care with thorough acid plaque removal of all surfaces of the teeth

2.      Never drink soft drinks between meals, lower acid drinks are best (such as root beer and Sprite).

3.      Drink water frequently

4.      Use saliva substitute products such as Biotene (gels, mouth rinse, gum, tooth paste)

5.      Use fluoride products to strengthen and remineralize enamel and root surfaces

6.      Schedule frequent dental preventive care visits, which include revolutionary new fluoride varnishes

7.      Use recaldent products (such as MI Paste) that for the first time have the ability to add calcium back to tooth enamel

8.      Chewing sugarless gum such as Orbit and Biotene can increase the production of saliva by ten times the normal rate.  Research is showing that chewing the sugar free gum for twenty minutes after eating a meal or drinking can help reduce tooth decay up to 40%.

Remember eating or drinking anything other than water lowers the ph in your mouth and will demineralize your teeth.

© 2011 David H. Brown

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