Saliva…Why is it important to you?
Saliva is made up of mostly water, it also contains mucus and the enzyme amylase.
The main purpose of the saliva is lubrication, making it easier to swallow and digest the food.
When we chew food, Saliva is produced be our salivary glands.
There are three major salivary glands in our mouth:
- There are two parotid glands one on each side located by your upper molars near the ear (par- = next to, -otid = ear). They are the largest salivary glands in your mouth.
- The sublingual gland is under the tongue. When you gleek this is the gland responsible.
- The submandibular gland is in the shape of a “U”. It is under the chin bone which is called the mandible.
- Figure 1. This picture shows the location of the three pairs of major salivary glands (parotid, sublingual, and submandibular glands) there are also many smaller ones which secrete saliva into the mouth(oral cavity), where it is mixed with food during chewing.
Saliva has the function of washing away food debris and bacteria remaining in the mouth, which leads to the prevention of caries and gingivitis.
The antibacterial property of the saliva prevents the unwanted bacteria present in our mouth from entering into our blood steam. Bacteria in our mouth entering our bodies can cause numerous systemic diseases depending on our genic make up and susceptibility.
Saliva is produced in the mouth or the oral cavity and plays a very important role in the digestion process. Digestion begins in the mouth, saliva is formed and secreted by the salivary glands to aid in the digestion process.
The digestive functions of saliva include moistening food so it can be swallowed easily.
Saliva is made up of electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, enzymes and the main component is water, which accounts for 95 percent of the saliva. The enzymes amylase and ptyalin present in saliva break down the starch in the food into maltose and dextrin, which is a crucial process of digestion making it way easier for digestion even before the food reaches the stomach. The mucus softens the food and also neutralizes the acids in the mouth, as it has alkaline effect.
Functions of Saliva
- Helps chewing and swallowing
- Lubricating effect: moisten your mouth
- pH buffering effect: Balances pH in your mouth
- Supplies minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, to teeth
- Aids in digestion: breaks down starch with the “salivary amylase”
- Solvent effect: dissolves food and allows the tongue to taste food
- Cleaning effect: washes away food debris and bacteria in the mouth
- Antibacterial effect: fighting against pathogenic microorganisms that cause cavities
Saliva maintains oral health and clears the unwanted bacteria and microbes from your mouth. Animals are often seen licking their wounds, because saliva has antibacterial healing properties. Hence the saying “licking your wounds”J
I do not know of an instance where someone has had too much saliva.
What happens if you have too little Saliva?
There are certain medications and diseases that can affect how much saliva a person produces. If you won’t have enough saliva, your mouth becomes dry. This is called xerostomia or simply, dry mouth.
Xerostomia can cause:
- a burning sensation or soreness in yourmouth.
- bad breath (halitosis)
- a decreased or altered sense of taste.
- recurrentmouth infections, such as oral thrush.
- tooth decay and gum disease.
- difficulty speaking, eating or swallowing.
Someone with dry mouth or xerostomia is more vulnerable to tooth decay and may become more likely to suffer from gingivitis or gum disease.
This is because the saliva is not there to aid in clearing food debris and bacteria from the mouth, without the proper saliva, tooth decay and gingivitis are more common. In the same way, saliva also helps reduce your risk of cavities.
Bear in mind that saliva is a great defense against a lot of tooth and mouth problems.
So, if you are currently experiencing a decrease in the production of saliva, do not take your symptoms lightly, see your doctor or Dentist as soon as possible.
There are over the counter gels and rinses that can help aid in reducing dry mouth.
References: Jonathan Pitts ,www.healthguidance.org