Spit is just spit right? But when we asked the Wally hygienists and dentists about the chemistry of saliva and its relationship to oral health, what we learned blew our mind 🤯. Put on your geek game face and let's dive into the science 🧪 of spit.
Why care about saliva?
Ah, saliva. It's in your mouth all the time, except when you fall asleep with your mouth open. Then it's on your chin. Seems like a pretty boring part of the body at first glance.
But saliva is a key player in oral health. The chemical composition of your saliva is a huge factor in determining how strong your teeth are, and how long those pearly whites will last. Maybe you have sensitive teeth and seem to get cavities all the time, but your best friend can chomp ice all day and has never had a cavity. Chances are, it's not your brushing and flossing that makes a difference, it's the composition of your saliva.
How does my saliva affect my oral health?
There are two factors in your saliva that affect the strength of your teeth:
- pH level, or acidity of your saliva.
- Buffering capacity, or how efficiently your saliva remineralizes your teeth
The pH and buffering capacity determine your risk for developing tooth decay. When the pH level of your saliva falls below 5.5 (on a scale of 1-14) then your enamel starts to break down.
For example, if you have high pH (or basic saliva) and high buffering capacity, your risk level is lower. If you're somebody who seems to get cavities all the time, you might have low pH and low buffering capacity. Let's dive into these a bit more.
What can I do to reduce tooth erosion from acidity?
Saliva pH is affected by many factors, including the food and drinks you consume, or whether or not you use tobacco. Each person's mouth is different so it's impossible to provide a "top 10" list that works for all. That said, here are some general rules of thumb that can help reduce tooth erosion:
- Don't brush your teeth until 30 minutes after eating acidic foods.
- Limit acidic beverages, or use a straw
- After an acidic food or drink rinse your mouth with water
- Eat more cheese - dairy and other calcium-rich foods neutralize acid
The right combination of hygiene techniques and products will depend on the pH level and buffering capacity of your saliva, combined with your lifestyle and diet.
If I find out my saliva is acidic, am I stuck with "lemon spit" forever? 🍋
When our Head of Experience used her Wally diagnostic kit, she found out her saliva pH was close to 6 (acidic). Her response? "Great, I have lemon spit. I'm doomed to dentures by age 45?"
No need to despair! You actually do have the power to control and improve your pH level and buffering capacity. Her virtual visit with a hygienist revealed the factors behind her low pH levels, and the care plan the hygienist created was designed to help address the factors and restore her saliva pH and buffering capacity levels.