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How does saliva protect the tooth enamel?

Saliva contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and thus is the major caries preventive agent. Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions at the tooth surface. The initial film layer of plaque, the pellicle laid down by saliva, also acts as a selective membrane that controls mineral transfer between saliva and the enamel surface.

As enamel ages it becomes harder. On the enamel surface there is a constant cycle of mineral change. The longer enamel is exposed to this saliva-mediated natural process, the more resistant it becomes to decay. After 20 years the enamel has been remineralized and the organic material it initially contained is lost. This may explain why the majority of new carious lesions occur in children and adolescents.

In addition to promoting remineralization, saliva acts a a lubricant to wash away debris. It aids in swallowing and chewing. It also has enzymes the help to break down starches. Saliva also has secretory antibodies that are part of the immune system. All of the above are helpful to enamel.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.