The effect of saliva on dental caries

J Am Dent Assoc. 2008 May:139 Suppl:11S-17S. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2008.0347.


Background: The multiple functions of saliva play a significant role in the prevention of dental caries.

Methods: Chewing gum is known to stimulate salivary flow, and the results of studies of the role of stimulated saliva in the oral clearance of food particles, neutralization of dental plaque acids and reduction of the incidence of dental caries have been reported. The author reviews the results of these clinical caries trials.

Results: Seven clinical trials have evaluated the impact of chewing gum on caries incidence. These studies have shown that chewing sugar-free gum after meals results in a significant decrease in the incidence of dental caries and that the benefit is due to stimulating salivary flow rather than any chewing gum ingredient.

Conclusions: Stimulating salivary flow through the chewing of sugar-free gum after meals has been shown to reduce the incidence of dental caries.

Clinical implications: Practical measures for stimulating salivary flow after meals or snacks should be considered in caries prevention programs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chewing Gum*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dental Plaque / chemistry
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Diet, Cariogenic
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Saliva / physiology*
  • Secretory Rate
  • Sorbitol / therapeutic use
  • Streptococcus mutans / metabolism
  • Sweetening Agents / therapeutic use


  • Chewing Gum
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Sorbitol