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What Is Saliva Gel?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Saliva gel is a topical gel used as a lubricant by people who suffer from dry mouth. Xerostomia, the clinical term for dry mouth, may be caused by a broad range of factors and can result in other symptoms such as altered taste and increased risk of dental caries, or cavities. Saliva gel is available as an over-the-counter product in most countries and may be known by different trade names.

The salivary glands are located in the mouth and they produce saliva, which is made up mainly of water, but also contains essential digestive and antibacterial enzymes. Saliva is needed for the digestion of food, protection against bacteria, chewing and swallowing and minimizing the risk of dental caries. The function of the salivary glands may be disturbed by numerous factors including nerve damage, radiotherapy or chemotherapy and many medications. Dry mouth may often be experienced when a person is nervous or anxious and is normal under these circumstances, but prolonged dry mouth should be investigated by a doctor.

Dry mouth can cause a number of symptoms including difficulty in swallowing or speaking, altered taste sensation and a higher risk of infections of the mouth and caries of the teeth. Once diagnosed, the first step to treating the condition is to remove any causative factors, where possible, such as medications which may cause it. In some cases, such as during life-saving chemotherapy, this is not possible and it should be treated with a product such as saliva gel or artificial saliva.

Products such as saliva gel contain substances like carboxymethylcellulose or hydroxyethyl cellulose, which act as a lubricant. They may also contain enzymes which may help minimize bacterial overgrowth in the mouth and reduce the occurrence of dental caries. Most contain a sugar substitute or sweetener, to improve the taste of the product.

While dry mouth may be a part of some conditions which occur as a person ages, it is not a symptom of aging itself and, therefore if it occurs, it should be investigated by a medical practitioner. Other lifestyle or non-drug measures which can be instituted to treat the symptom are sipping water throughout the day, especially at mealtimes; limiting caffeine intake, which may exacerbate dry mouth; stopping smoking; and using a fluoride-containing toothpaste and mouthwash. Often a combination of these lifestyle measures and the addition of a saliva substitute, such as saliva gel or artificial saliva is needed.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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