Letʼs cover the statistics according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
- 92% of adults have tooth decay
- 42% of children have tooth decay
- greater than 90% of adults have gum disease
- 65% of 15-year-olds have active gum disease (YIKES!)
Given these numbers, what can we do to support our children in creating greater oral health for their lives?
How saliva benefits oral health…
1. Saliva is the way teeth remineralize!
There is such a buzz about remineralizing teeth in the whole real food movement today. What is important to note is that the teeth are remineralized through the saliva being washed over the teeth! We must have sufficient nutrition in our diet to have the necessary minerals present in the saliva to support remineralization. That said, saliva plays a key role in remineralizing the teeth.
The benefits of increased saliva production for the prevention of tooth decay are well established. Whether you believe general dental theory that decay occurs due to acids from bacteria in the mouth digesting sugars or prefer the theory most recently brought to light by Rami Nagel in his book, Cure Tooth Decay, tooth decay occurs when there is an imbalance between the demineralization of the enamel surface and remineralization produced by the return of mineral ions into enamel. The frequent stimulation of saliva, especially after the intake of sugars, will help to dilute and buffer plaque acid, bring extra mineral ions into the plaque fluid and thereby promote remineralization.
2. Saliva reduces the thug bugs that cause gum disease and tooth decay…
Research shows a clear relationship between the fact that saliva production declines with age and the fact of an increased risk of gum disease with age. Saliva has within it a whole host of ʻfirst respondersʼ for our immune system.
For example, lactoferrin is one compound naturally found in saliva. Lactoferrin is part of our innate immune system and is one of our key front lines of defense to help us live healthy lives. Lactoferrin binds iron in the mouth and thereby deprives the ‘thug bugsʼ that cause the damage of gum disease of the iron necessary for them to flourish.
Enzymes also play a key role in creating greater oral health. Of the salivary enzymes involved in maintaining the ecology of the mouth, one of the first to be recognized was the enzyme lysozyme, which appears to work by destabilizing the cell wall of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
3. Saliva helps to re-establish healthy pH in the mouth.
To maintain an optimal oral ecology is the key to creating greater oral health. While we can most effectively address optimizing the pH of the mouth through immune-supporting protocols like a nutrient-dense diet, restful sleep, and healthy coping tools for stress, saliva plays a key role in the actual mechanism of establishing what the pH of our mouth is going to be at any given time.
How to increase saliva production?
The principle “Use it or Lose it” applies when discussing saliva production. We must exercise our ability to produce saliva or suffer the fate of a dry mouth and the problems that come with decreased saliva production.
While we can eat to produce more saliva, the extra benefits to our health of the increased saliva are offset by the main job of saliva during eating, to begin the digestion process. Therefore, letʼs discuss a strategy on how to increase oneʼs saliva production without eating.
Mouth Probiotics! (AKA Exercise your spit!)
Step 1: Gather any saliva in your mouth into a pool on your tongue. Now using the musculature of the throat, draw the saliva back and forth from the back of the tongue to just behind the front teeth then back again several times (we recommend 30-50 repetitions). With practice, this action will increase the amount of saliva present in the mouth.
Step 2: Once you have a pool of saliva on your tongue, give your teeth, and gums a bath with your increased saliva! We call swishing with saliva ʻswashingʼ because itʼs like you are swishing and washing at the same time. Swash with the increased saliva for a minute or two then swallow it down and let the saliva now support greater digestion in the stomach!
This is such a simple technique that even young children can do it.
“Is the key to greater oral health already in your mouth?”, Oral Wellness.