Saliva plays a critical role in helping maintain your immune system. Specifically, it acts as a first line of defense against infections and bacteria that you might ingest. Saliva is produced by a variety of glands located inside the mouth and they primarily serve the function of moistening food and ensuring that it clumps together after chewing for an easy swallow. The enzymes in saliva also help break down certain food molecules as part of the digestive process.
While doing all this, saliva also helps maintain our immune system. Here’s how:
- Prevents bacteria growth
Saliva contains lactoferrin and lyzozyme, proteins that inhibit bacterial growth in the mouth. They help prevent inflammation and have antioxidant properties that support the immune responses your body triggers.
- Kills bacteria in the mouth
Saliva contains the antibody IgA that lines your oral cavity and helps kill bacteria. This prevents bacteria from being ingested and passing into the rest of the body through the digestive tract.
- Breaks down food molecules
Saliva also breaks down food molecules for digestion. By doing this, it lowers the chance of food remaining in the mouth, and thus the chance of those stray food particles encouraging bacterial growth and infection.
- Maintains pH levels and prevents enamel decay
In addition to directly fighting bacteria and infections, saliva also ensures that your mouth doesn’t become a petri dish for bacteria to thrive in. It maintains pH levels at the necessary amount where acidity doesn’t encourage bacteria growth and tooth damage. Tooth enamel is also protected from demineralization.
Salivary glands play an important role in maintaining your immune system. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit an orthodontist should you suspect an oral infection. They’ll be able to ascertain whether your saliva production is at healthy levels and if there are infections which require medical intervention.