Salivary nitrate – an ecological factor in reducing oral acidity

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Human oral cavities represent a novel environment with a constant supply of concentrated nitrate. For humans, over 80% of dietary nitrate originates from fruit and vegetables. With a healthy, balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, the concentration of nitrate in saliva can reach up to more than three times the European drinking water standard. The physiological function of the active excretion of salivary nitrate is unknown. Furthermore, little is known of the ecological function of oral nitrate and the effect on the oral environment during its subsequent oral microbial conversions. The objectives of the research were to investigate the effect on salivary pH coupled with oral microbial nitrate and/or nitrite reduction. Human saliva samples were incubated anaerobically in the presence of 111.0 mmol glucose (2%), with and without 1.5 mmol nitrate/nitrite, and pH and nitrate/nitrite consumption were measured during the time-course of the incubations. We found that anaerobic incubation of saliva containing a mixture of oral bacteria in the presence of nitrate/nitrite substrates and glucose resulted in a higher pH than was found in controls in the absence of nitrate/nitrite. These results suggest that the presence of these electron acceptors repressed acid fermentation, or increased alkali production, or consumed acid produced, thus reducing salivary acidity. This finding identifies salivary nitrate as a possible ecological factor in reducing oral acidity. The possibility that a symbiotic relationship between host nitrate excretion and nitrate-reducing microorganisms might help to protect against tooth decay should be explored further.

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