Monday, 24 November 2014 10:29

New Study Reveals Importance of Saliva

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Until recently, it was thought that salivary mucins - the principal organic constituents of mucus - did little more than give saliva its elastic, slippery and gel-like properties. However, a new study from Cambridge, Massachusetts seems to show they play an extremely active role against pathogens (disease producing agents) in the oral cavity.

One of the study’s authors, Erica Shapiro Frenkel of Harvard University, says the findings mean naturally boosting a body’s defense may be an even better way to prevent tooth decay, rather than fighting it with external products.

However, the salivary mucins do not alter the levels of pathogens, nor do they quickly kill the bacteria. Instead, the bacteria is kept suspended in a liquid medium, thus reducing their ability to cling to teeth and form biofilms. A biofilm is a dense group of microorganisms that thrive and grow on surfaces. Cavities can only form when particles are attached, so keeping bad bacteria in liquid limbo helps keep it off your teeth and prevent the formation of cavities.

Frenkel also notes that friendly bacteria is better preserved when naturally present species are not killed (by mouthwash, for example).

In conclusion, this new study leads us to believe that saliva has several roles, including:

  1. Protection against desiccation and environmental insult
  2. Antimicrobial effects against pathogens
  3. Lubrication


Findings like these lead us to a better understanding of how to best take care of our health, in addition to changing scientists views on host-microbe interactions.

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