Things Your Saliva Says About Your Health
Every day, your body produces roughly 50 ounces of saliva. (Ewww.) But you probably don’t give your spit much thought, even though it plays a vital role in your health.
For one thing, saliva is a natural mouth disinfectant, says American Dental Association spokesperson Kimberly Harms, DDS. “It helps maintain the health of your gums, prevent tooth decay, and wash away food particles, and it provides disease-fighting substances to prevent cavities and other infections,” she says.
While saliva keeps your mouth clean, the condition of your spit can also provide clues to other things going on in your body. Pay attention to these signs:
- You seem to be running low.
It may be your meds. “Over 300 medications, like decongestants and antihistamines, cause dry mouth as a side effect,” Harms says. Desert mouth tends to spring up as you age and health concerns force you to take more medication, she adds. If you’re taking something and notice you’re parched, be extra vigilant about your dental hygiene to avoid cavities, Harms says. Floss daily, brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste twice a day, and see your dentist for regular checkups.
- It’s white and clumpy.You may have an oral infection. The candida albicansfungus can cause a yeast infection in your mouth, which is called “thrush,” Harms says. While thrush is rare in healthy adults, people who have diabetes may be especially vulnerable since sugars in the saliva can lead to yeast growth. Your doc can prescribe an antifungal medication that you swish in your mouth to clear up the infection. (Dry mouth can also cause clumpiness.)3. It has certain RNA molecules.
Like a window to your insides, saliva tests can provide a ton of information about your genetic makeup and hormones. From diabetes to cancer, saliva holds promise as a diagnostic tool for diseases, much like a vial of your blood, suggests research published in Clinical Chemistry. A spit test can also assess your levels of hormones like melatonin, shows researchfrom Northwestern University. That could provide doctors insight into your body’s circadian rhythms, and so help them make better sleeping, eating, and weight loss recommendations.4. It’s too acidic.
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