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Role of Saliva in Protecting Teeth Against Cavities

Role of Saliva in Protecting Teeth Against Cavities

Our saliva is almost entirely comprised of water, but a small fraction of a percent of it contains things like electrolytes, glycoproteins, enzymes, and mucus. It has long been thought that mucus did not play much of a role other than making our saliva have a gel-like consistency, but a recent study indicates that mucus may play an important role in protecting our teeth against cavities.

Mucus contains a biological compound called salivary mucins. Researchers have found that salivary mucins is particularly effective against a cavity-causing bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans. Over a 24 hour period, it was found that salivary mucins does not alter the levels of S. mutans or even kill the bacteria, but it does keep the bacteria suspended in a liquid medium. This is in turn, renders the bacteria harmless, as it reduces their ability to form biofilms on the teeth. It is only when S. mutans is able to form a biofilm and attach to the tooth that it is able to cause cavities.

This research indicates that boosting the natural defenses that our body already has may possibly be a more effective way of protecting our teeth than using items like sealants or fluoride treatments for that purpose. By preventing S. mutans from attaching to our teeth, it makes it easier to brush it away through our daily brushing. Failure to remove plaque and bacteria before it has a chance to cling to our teeth will definitely lead to decay. By brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, you will decrease the amount of decay that occurs, and you will also decrease your chances of needing to visit the dentist for a root canal treatment.

 

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