What is saliva? Basically, it’s mostly water secretion in your mouth. Beyond water, saliva consists of mucin, organic salts and digestive enzymes.
Under healthy conditions, you’ll produce in excess of a couple of cups of this fluid daily. This flow is slowest while you sleep and surges during a meal.
Saliva is discharged into your mouth via your salivary gland system. And salivary secretion is controlled by your autonomic nervous system.
You have three sets of major salivary glands. One type of gland is the parotid, which is located between your jaw and ear. The saliva that originates out of this gland tends to be watery in its consistency.
The other two salivary glands are labeled sublingual and submandibula. Sublingual produces the thickest, stickiest version of saliva through numerous ducts in your mouth’s floor.
Submandibular gland is found under your tongue and shoots out saliva of a texture that’s in between watery and sticky. Salivary gland placement is also in various spots throughout your mouth, ejecting saliva similar sublingual’s.
Salivary gland flow decreases during periods of dehydration. And it’s that subsequent dry mouth that causes your sensation of thirst. Thus, causing you to seek sources of hydration, which is just one of saliva’s health benefits.
Saliva has various other health benefits. Some of it’s more notable benefits is it serves as a moisturizer for your mouth, it kicks off starch and fat digestion, it’s a moistening aid for chewing and its stickiness binds food into a bolus for swallowing.
However, saliva benefits your health in other ways as well, like:
- lower pH helps neutralize acids in food
- provides a defensive barrier against bacteria, fungi, viruses
- bicarbonate buffer protects teeth against bacteria producing acids
- dissolves substance in food to make them more accessible to taste buds
When salivary flow is too low, xerostomia (aka dry mouth) becomes an issue. When this happens, you’ll likely have difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking. And a substantial cut in saliva has a negative impact on dental and oral health, i.e. increases risk of cavities, gingivitis and periodontal disease.