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The remarkable power of saliva

12 February 2018

We all know what saliva is. It’s a watery, sometimes a little foamy, liquid produced by our salivary glands. Most of us are used to its presence, but not all of us are aware of a huge role it plays within our mouth cavity.

What are the saliva’s properties?

The salivary glands produce saliva, which is a combination of various ingredients. About 65% of saliva’s volume is created by the submandibular gland, 30% is created by the parotid gland and 5% by sublingual gland. The small salivary glands situated on our lips, cheeks, palate and tongue play a very small role at prducing the general volume of this liquid.

The saliva of each person is similar and can be characterized by the following:

  • transparent, sometimes a little turbid,
  • colorless,
  • pH 6,8 – 7,2,
  • thickness of 1,002 – 1,12 g/ml,
  • osmolality usually lower than plasma.

During a single day, the human body produces somewhere between 750 – 1000 ml of saliva; under default conditions, we secrete it in “the continuous mode” (0.3 – 0.5 ml/min.) and when we sleep, even fifty times more than that. The amount of saliva we produce can be reduced because of stress, while certain smells, scents, flavours or even chewing can increase this amount.

What are the contents of saliva?

There are many ingredients within our saliva. Amongst those affecting the health of our teeth and the entire mouth cavity, we can distinguish:
water – it moisturizes the oral cavity and creates a protective biofilm inside of it, which prevents potential injuries,
calcium and phosphorus – the elements which take an active part in the enamel remineralization processes,
buffer systems based on carbohydrates – help keep the right pH level within our mouth,
immunoglobulins – protect from infections.

What are the functions of a saliva?

Saliva is an underestimated liquid, which participates in pretty much every process which occurs within our mouth:

  • moisturizes the mucosals,
  • helps form and swallow foods,
  • removes food remains,
  • begins digestive processes,
  • dissolves nutrients,
  • “flushes” food bacteria,
  • allows us to taste,
  • has antibacterial properties,
  • accelerates wound healing,
  • allows us to speak correctly,
  • creates a protective barrier shielding the body from infectons,
  • neutralizes the acidic reactions of dental plaque, which helps protect the teeth from cavities.

Saliva secretion disorders:

  • hyposalivation – reduced saliva production,
  • xerostomia – a pathological feeling of dryness in the mouth, caused by salivary glands damage,
  • drooling – secreting too much saliva, for example, because of heavy metal poisonings or esophagus cancer,
  • tartar – reduces saliva’s acidity,
  • excreting medications we take along with the saliva, which might lead to many mouth diseases,
  • Sjögren syndrome – an autoimmune damage to, for example, cells of walls within our mouth, which manifests as a feeling of dry mouth.

Do I need artificial saliva?

A significant relief to some people who are suffering from salivary gland disorders might come in the form of the so-called artificial saliva – a chemical liquid, resembling a regular saliva chemically. It’s perfect at moisturizing the mucosa, supports the reminerealization processes, protects from cavities and helps digest foods. The doctor might decide to make it a necessity, if you’re struggling with a pathological problem of a dry mouth.

The saliva is created by nearly all of us – that’s why we generally don’t notice the remarkable fuctions it has within our mouths. However, we should remember to assist our salivary glands at producing enough saliva, by drinking at least 1.5 l of water every day and reacting fast to all pathological aberrations.

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