Saliva and Dental Cavities
Saliva has long been known to help protect teeth from tooth decay, and thus dental cavities, but a recent discovery about the mucus contained in saliva has been nothing short of revelatory. Mucus makes up a tiny fraction of saliva, less than 0.5% actually, and it was previously thought that its only contribution to saliva was giving it a gel-like property. A recent study has found that glycoproteins contained in the mucus called salivary mucins actively protect the teeth from decay.
It should be noted that salivary mucins do not significantly harm the bacteria known to cause tooth decay, Streptococcus mutans, but rather renders it ineffective. Salivary mucins achieve this by suspending S.mutans in a liquid medium, which prevents them from forming biofilms on the teeth. This is significant because the only way that S. mutans cause tooth decay is by being attached to the tooth itself. When we consume sugar or starches, S. mutans feed on these items, and create a harmful acid byproduct as a part of its metabolic process. It is this acid that leads to tooth decay, and in turn, cavities. Not only do salivary mucins protect the teeth from decay, they also promote the health of our oral microbiome, which is made up of the good bacteria in our mouth.
While this is an interesting finding to be sure, saliva alone is not enough in guarding against tooth decay. It is still important to regularly brush and floss your teeth, along with visiting the dentist for a professional exam and cleaning. If it has been a while since you have last been to the dentist, contact our expert in tooth decay treatment to schedule an appointment.
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