As a kid, you were probably curious about the comings and goings happening in your body. It’s normal. And for the most part, it’s a good learning experience. Each new discovery about yourself becomes a fun discussion point with your parents or a trusted adult. For some, however, this phase of exploration never really passes. What might seem like a quirky part of your anatomy can be a source of anxiety for upcoming hypochondriacs, like discovering a white patch inside your cheek. But what is that white line on your cheek where your teeth meet?
For a good portion of us, we might’ve noticed that white patch after engaging in a bout of cheek biting. Or maybe you felt it ache for one reason or another. And it’s for that reason why some people might take that white line on their cheek where their teeth meet as a sign of some grave illness. But it’s not like that at all, as you might find out.
So, what is that white line? And what does it do, exactly?
Learning More About the Linea Alba
First off, what is that line? It’s called the linea alba, which literally means “white line.” To understand what it does, we’ll need to understand another part of your mouth: the buccal mucosa. Essentially, this is the inner lining of your cheeks. When you accidentally bite down on the area, a reaction occurs. The area where you bit down appears to rise like a white ridge, hence the name.
But why does this happen? Think of it as something similar to getting a callous. When you play the guitar, for instance, you might find that your fingertips have hardened into fleshy lumps. The same happens when you get a linea alba. When subjected to constant friction, that area of the buccal mucosa gains keratin deposits and hardens. From there, it might initially resemble a white patch, turning into a horizontal white line on the cheek where teeth meet.
How do you get these keratin deposits, however? This usually results from continuous irritation. The more it gets irritated, the thicker it becomes, making it more visible. Cheek biting, in particular, causes it to look more prominent. And fortunately, it’s harmless for the most part.
What Happens When the White Line Inside Your Cheek Hurts?
Now that we know what causes the linea alba—or the white line within your cheek where your teeth meet—what happens when it starts hurting? This can arise for several reasons:
- Cheek biting. When the linea alba thickens, it becomes easier to bite as it does so. Even if you try to avoid it, you might find yourself cheek biting regardless.
- Canker sores. Sometimes what seems like a linea alba isn’t one at all. If your “linea alba” looks more like a white patch or a series of white patches, it might not just be a harmless case of linea alba. It could actually be a canker sore. If the sores do not heal, bleed, keep recurring, or appear in several, you may need a checkup with a dentist. This may be a sign of something more serious.
Everything about Saliva
Saliva is one of the things we tend to take for granted. We only notice it when visible. But it’s essential when taking care of your oral cavity and overall oral health. But how does it do this? Through saliva remineralization.
We all know that saliva has the enzymes that make it easier to digest the things you eat. Aside from breaking down food, however, it also does a ton of functions in the oral cavity. The American Dental Association lists some of them as follows:
- Clears leftover food particles and fermentable carbohydrates;
- Transports disease-fighting cells through the mouth to stop any instances of decay or infection;
- Blends in essential minerals—such as phosphate, calcium, and fluoride—into the tooth surfaces to keep them healthy.
Each function plays a vital role in preventing the demineralization of teeth and maintaining your oral health. By washing away food particles and fermentable carbohydrates, your saliva lessens the amount of fuel harmful oral bacteria convert into acid. The disease-fighting substances further bring down their numbers, ensuring they don’t deal too much damage.
Today, however, we’ll be focusing on the third point—saliva remineralization. But how does this enamel remineralization happen? And why is it so important?
Saliva comes from your blood
Before we look into why saliva is important, we should first ask where saliva comes from. And as it turns out, your saliva comes from your blood. As a matter of fact, according to Enders and Enders, saliva is actually filtered blood.
When saliva is produced, your blood goes through the salivary glands, which keep away the red blood cells and retain the rest. “The rest,” of course, includes hormones, immune system products, and the necessary minerals.
Why enamel remineralization is important
Because the demineralization of teeth happens daily, the tendency is you need to continually infuse your tooth surfaces with minerals so it can defend itself against bacterial attacks. And it does just this every time you eat.
You trigger your saliva flow when you eat or chew. Once this happens, the salivary glands sieve the blood and produce all the good stuff your oral cavity needs to protect itself.
You can’t eliminate harmful oral bacteria 100%, so, for the most part, you’ll have to deal with those small instances of dental erosion continually. And because plaque builds up between the times you don’t brush your teeth, you need a mechanism to make sure your tooth surfaces aren’t overrun with tooth decay by the time you do brush and floss.
This is where the importance of saliva comes through. In a sense, it plays both offense and defense when it comes to protecting the oral cavity. But while saliva does do much of the heavy lifting, it can’t function on its own. You’ll still need to keep to good oral health practices—such as brushing regularly and eating tooth-healthy foods—so plaque doesn’t overtake saliva’s protective properties.
It’s a little tricky, then, if you have a dry mouth. Because there are fewer chances of saliva remineralization, you’re more likely to get tooth decay. In this case, you might need to cut down on the fermentable carbohydrates and take extra care with your oral health. In this case, it’s best to head to the dental office and consult your dentist.
Reasons why saliva performs very pivotal roles:
- Combats germs in the mouth and prevents foul-smelling breath
- Keeps the mouth comfortable and moist
- Contains minerals and proteins that shield the enamel of the tooth and inhibit gum disease as well as tooth decay
- Helps a person chew, taste, and swallow well
- Greatly aids in keeping dentures securely in place
- Maintains the pH balance and neutralizes acids. For example, the consumption of foods that are high in sugar can urge some changes in the production of acids and in plaque pH balance. This can easily erode the enamel of the teeth and may sooner or later result in tooth decay.
Here are the other important facts about saliva:
- As you know, a person produces saliva when he or she chews. In fact, the harder a person chews, the more saliva he or she produces.
- The salivary glands produce saliva, which is found at the bottom of the mouth, inside each cheek, and near the front teeth of the jaw bone.
- Saliva moves through tubes referred to as salivary ducts. Take note that there are a total of 6 major salivary glands and also hundreds of minor salivary glands.
- Typically, a person’s body produces two to four pints of saliva a day. Normally, the body makes the most saliva during late afternoons. Meanwhile, the body makes the least amount of saliva at nighttime. Please be guided that everyone is different. Generally, what doctors regard to be a normal amount of saliva differs slightly. This is what actually makes diagnosing saliva-related issues somewhat challenging.
What happens when you have too little saliva?
There are certain medications and diseases that can affect how much saliva a person makes. If you don’t have sufficient saliva, the mouth becomes dry. This is called xerostomia, or simply, dry mouth.
Xerostomia causes the tongue, gums, as well as other tissues inside the mouth to become uncomfortable and swollen. Likewise, bacteria easily develops in this form of setting. A mouth that is dry and filled with bacteria results in a foul-smelling breath.
It is worthy to note that xerostomia also makes a person more vulnerable to rapid tooth decay and may become more likely to suffer from periodontal disease. This is because saliva greatly aids in clearing food debris from the teeth. But without the proper saliva supply, tooth decay is quite common. In the same way, saliva also helps reduce the risk of dental cavities. You may also notice that you don’t taste things like you used to if you have dry mouth.
Bear in mind that saliva is a great defense against a lot of mouth and tooth problems. So, if you are currently experiencing a decrease in the production of saliva, do not take your symptoms lightly, and go to your doctor or dentist at once.