Your mouth is a major route for the introduction of disease into your whole body. With its moist, warm environment it is a haven for many species of micro-organisms to thrive and multiply. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums, therefore, is not only important for your appearance but also for your general health.
Increasing evidence shows that poor oral health can be a precursor to heart disease, broncho-pulmonary disorders, stroke, diabetes and preterm births.
Under normal circumstances, nature provides your mouth with natural systems which regulate and control these micro-organisms – bacteria, yeast and viruses – maintaining a healthy balance which prevents them from forming colonies known as biofilm. Dental plaque is a form of biofilm which if left unchecked can lead to periodontal disease.
Your saliva is a complex fluid which flushes your mouth, day and night, with primordial, protective systems which help to maintain your mouth’s natural balance, or eco-system – also known as the oral microbiome. Saliva acts as a cleansing solution, an ion reservoir, a lubricant and a buffer.
Saliva prevents the formation of harmful mouth acids which could lead to plaque (biofilm) formation, gum disease and caries. Overwhelming evidence shows that your saliva is essential for a healthy mouth and also provides a defence mechanism against the introduction of infections that can enter your whole body via the mouth.
In addition, oxidative stress occurs in the mouth just as it does in other parts of your body. It can be caused by chronic inflammation and infection, but it can also cause inflammation and cell damage.
It is the action of saliva’s non-immune factors, such as Lysozyme, Lactoferrin and Lactoperoxidase, in conjunction with other immune factors, which helps encourage the presence of healthy oral flora by maintaining your mouth’s natural balance.
Anti-oxidants in your saliva help to combat the free radicals which lead to oxidative stress, providing a first line of anti-oxidant defence against free radical oxidative stress which can be caused by mastication and digestion of foods.
Therefore, the continuous combined action of numerous salivary defence factors, in association with a good oral hygiene are indispensable for maintaining the neutral pH required for a healthy mouth.
However, the efficacy of your saliva can be disturbed by a number of external factors such as diet, state-of-health, medical treatments, medications and auto-immune disorders, hormones: the better your health, the more effective your saliva will be in maintaining this all-important balance in your mouth.
Diabetes is one of these risk factors.