If you have a cavity, it means you’re not brushing and flossing well enough, right? Well, to a certain extent that is true. But there are still a number of factors that can affect your dental health outside of your daily hygiene routine. Your family dentist in Framingham knows saliva has a lot to do with it, too — and new research says that the makeup of saliva is decided based not on genetics but on certain factors during early childhood. Keep reading to find out more about the study, and what it means for you.
What Is Saliva?
Saliva, aka spit, is the watery stuff that helps you eat and speak. Without enough of it, you are at a higher risk of cavities, gum disease, and dry mouth. Saliva is made up of about 98% water, with other electrolytes, cells, enzymes, and mucus. It carries with it a specific set of organisms that affect both oral and overall health — and what determines this salivary microbiome is the focus of much research.
The Role Saliva Plays in Oral Health
Having plenty of saliva is important because it naturally washes away sugars and bacteria to help guard your smile from tooth decay and gum disease. The pH of the saliva is also key because when it is in balance, it is easier for your mouth to fight off threats — but when the pH levels are out of whack, you are at a higher risk of developing the most common oral health hazards.
We have long thought that the makeup of saliva — which determines, among other things, your risk for gum disease — is based on genetic factors. However, new research suggests that the microbiome of saliva (more simply, what it’s made of) is determined heavily by the household at a young age.
Researchers in the United Kingdom studied households to determine whether the saliva microbiome was more heavily influenced by genetics or members of the household — and found that the answer was overwhelmingly the latter. Individuals share saliva by simply being in the same home environment, even without directly kissing. This study suggests that being exposed to another’s saliva at an early age (before 10 years old) will determine the specific oral bacteria carried throughout life.
What this Means for You
Right now, this study doesn’t have a lot of influence for you (aside from being interesting). It is possible, though, that in the future we could actually influence the microbiome to eliminate the organisms that lead to an increased risk of gum disease. With research like this, the future of dentistry and oral health looks promising indeed!
About Your Framingham Dentists
Dr. Mark Fried, Dr. Julie Werman, and Dr. Sarah Shih offer comprehensive dental services from the comfort of their state-of-the-art dental practice. To learn more about their general, restorative, or cosmetic dentistry treatments or to schedule an appointment with your dentist in Framingham, you are invited to contact (508) 872-9339 today.