Table of Contents
- What is Saliva for Anyway?
- Who Should be Using Artificial Saliva/Saliva Substitutes
- What Causes Dry Mouth?
- What is Artificial Saliva?
- Artificial Saliva vs. Saliva Stimulants
- What to Look for in Artificial Saliva
- The Best Artificial Salvia Brands
- 1. Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Spray
- 2. XyliMelts for Dry Mouth
- 3. Xerostom
- Artificial Saliva and Saliva Substitutes Wrap Up
For most of us, thinking about our spit is more gross than intriguing. Spit seems to be an unfortunate fact of our bodies, a necessary evil that forces us to endure the occasional facial-flecking during our Aunt Margie’s uber-enthusiastic tangent. However, we probably underestimate how important saliva is to our overall well-being.
Some people, unfortunately, have great difficulties in producing their own saliva. Fortunately, we live in a day and age when there are artificial products that can mitigate the loss of our natural saliva. Not only do we live in a time of replacement tires and teeth but even saliva. Here’s everything you need to know about artificial saliva and saliva substitutes.
What is Saliva for Anyway?
As crazy as it might seem, saliva does much more for you than fuel a bad spitting habit. Saliva is a wildly versatile and complex substance that assists in numerous bodily functions. For one, saliva is the first line in the complex process of digestion. Saliva moistens food, helping it to break apart and form a bolus, which is just a processed ball of food that passes through the GI system to be digested. Our saliva lubricates this food bolus as well, allowing it to slide down our throat without us choking. Saliva also contains the enzyme amylase, which breaks down starches into dextrin and maltose for the body to use.
Saliva also helps keep our mouths clean and healthy. Our bodies produce between one and two pints of saliva a day, and this saliva flushes our mouths out, taking with it food debris and harmful bacteria These harmful bacteria often attack our tooth enamel and gums, so washing them away prevents them from eating away our enamel.
On top of that, flushing out oral bacteria keeps our breath fresh since bacteria produce the sulphorous stench of our bad breath. Saliva also neutralizes acids from the foods we eat, which protects our enamel. Acids soften tooth enamel, making it more vulnerable to being eaten by oral bacteria, and softened enamel can be further damaged when we brush our teeth before the enamel remineralizes.
Another important role that saliva can play is to be the first line of defense against pathogens and disease. Saliva is sticky, so any foreign objects that enter the mouth will likely get caught in the saliva. Agents in the saliva serve to break down and kill certain harmful pathogens that enter the mouth, so saliva acts as a sanitizing agent of sorts. Were it not for saliva, many of these pathogens would enter the body, causing us to get sick.
As you can see, saliva plays so many crucial roles in our overall health.
Who Should be Using Artificial Saliva/Saliva Substitutes
Unfortunately, many people suffer from a condition known as xerostomia, or as it’s commonly known, “dry mouth.” These people can’t produce saliva in adequate amounts, resulting in an unpleasant dry sensation in the mouth. Xerostomia can cause halitosis, AKA bad breath, as well as tooth decay due to the abundance of tooth-eating bacteria in the mouth.
Without saliva to wash away excess bacteria, these bacteria multiply to unhealthy levels. Dry mouth can also lead to gum irritation. Our gums and other soft tissue and our mouths are meant to remain moist, so drying them out can cause painful inflammation and damage.
In addition to these health issues, dry mouth also makes it more difficult to chew, swallow, and speak. Dry mouth also inhibits our taste buds, so we often can’t taste very well when our mouth is dry. Hence, people suffering from xerostomia can benefit greatly from using artificial saliva.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
There are many reasons why people may have dry mouth. A common cause of dry mouth is medication use. Many medications cause dry mouth as a side effect, including numerous antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. Another potential cause of xerostomia is smoking. Nicotine and smoke inhibit the production of saliva, which causes your mouth to dry out. Nerve damage from surgical errors may also inhibit saliva production, and certain autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome cause dry mouth as well.
What is Artificial Saliva?
So what exactly is artificial saliva? Real saliva is 99% water, so artificial salvia is similarly made mostly of water. However, artificial saliva also contains other ingredients in order to mimic real saliva. Artificial saliva contains lubricating agents to moisten the mouth, thereby easing swallowing, speaking, and chewing. The moistening properties help the food form into a digestible bolus that can easily pass down the esophagus. Artificial saliva also contains certain thickeners to help the product adhere to the inside of the mouth.
There are some important differences between artificial saliva and real saliva, however. Although artificial saliva is able to replicate some of the lubricating and moistening properties of real saliva, it cannot aid in digestion in the same way as real saliva. Artificial saliva does not contain natural saliva’s complex mixture of enzymes and digestive agents, meaning it can’t break down sugars and starches in quite the same way. Artificial saliva also lacks the immune response agents found in natural saliva, so it does not provide the same protection against pathogens and disease.
Artificial saliva and saliva substitutes generally don’t require a prescription, though they may be hard to find at the store. Ask an attendant or pharmacist if you’re having trouble finding your product at the store.
Artificial Saliva vs. Saliva Stimulants
Please note that there is a difference between artificial saliva/substitutes and saliva stimulants. Artificial saliva and saliva substitutes are meant to mimic natural saliva in order to ease the symptoms of dry mouth. The products are often ingested in order to lubricate and moisten the mouth. Saliva stimulants, on the other hand, are products designed to activate the salivary glands in order to produce natural saliva. Gum, for instance, is a saliva stimulant because the chewing causes our mouths to produce saliva.
When shopping for a product to treat your dry mouth, make sure to read the label and select the kind of product you need. Not everyone with xerostomia will benefit from a saliva stimulant, but not everyone with dry mouth requires a saliva substitute. If you can produce your own saliva, a saliva stimulant is probably the best route. But if you can’t produce much or any of your own saliva, then you should probably look into a saliva substitute.
What to Look for in Artificial Saliva
Not all artificial salivas and substitutes are created equal, so there are some things you should look for in the product you choose. First of all, as was mentioned in the previous section, find out if you need a saliva stimulant or a saliva substitute. Second, you need to consult your doctor before using a product if you are:
- Pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to breastfeed
- Using prescription medications or supplements
- Allergic to any of the ingredients in the product
Also consider if you want a flavored substitute or a plain substitute. Researching potential purchases isn’t a bad idea either. Some products can lubricate the mouth up to two hours, but other don’t last as long. If you want relief from your dry mouth, you’ll want to find one that won’t require constant treatment to relieve.
The Best Artificial Salvia Brands
Now that we’ve gone through the details of salvia substitutes, here are the best brands to look for in the stores.
Biotene is a doctor-recommended remedy to dry mouth with a well-known name. Biotene makes their saliva substitute in a mouth spray form, allowing for easy application. You simply spray in your mouth and tongue and use your tongue to swish the product around your whole mouth.
The mouth spray even comes in a nice mint flavor to make it a more pleasant experience. Biotene also makes their product in a mouthwash and toothpaste form.
Xylimelts offer the cutting edge in artificial saliva. Xyligels are small disks that bind to your molars or gums to provide dry mouth relief throughout the day. As the disks cling to the inside of your mouth, they slowly dissolve, releasing an artificial saliva to moisten and lubricate your mouth. Xylimelts are ideal for nighttime use since they work automatically in your mouth.
People with xerostomia notoriously have a difficult time at night since our mouths dry out at night (due to lower saliva production). Many products only provide relief for two or so hours, meaning your xerostomia will return before the morning. If your mouth dries out in the middle of the night, the discomfort may wake you up, making it difficult for people with dry mouth to sleep. For this reason, Xylimelts are a must-have product for people with dry mouth.
Xerostom is an excellent oral gel to help you combat your dry mouth. Because it’s a gel, Xerostom adheres more to the inside of your mouth, helping the product last in your mouth. According to its own website, Xerostom can increase your salivary flow by up to 200% and will relieve most symptoms of dry mouth.
Artificial Saliva and Saliva Substitutes Wrap Up
Dry mouth is a difficult condition to live with on a chronic basis, so it’s essential to get a product that can help increase your quality of life. Artificial saliva has proven time and time again to be a safe and effective way to treat dry mouth. Thanks to products like those listed above, people suffering from chronic dry mouth can talk easier, taste better, and have fresher breath, among many other things. The kind of saliva substitute you use is up to you, but there’s a great variety of products on the market. Remember, don’t limit yourself to just saliva substitutes; saliva stimulants could be just as helpful for people with a low saliva flow than saliva substitutes are.
Other than improving your quality of life, remember that treating dry mouth will help your overall health. Treating your xerostomia will protect your teeth and flush bacteria from your mouth as well as making it easier to eat. We’re fortunate to live in a time in which we have these kinds of products to use, so take full advantage of these incredibly useful products.