What is saliva?
An aqueous solution that constantly moistens the oral cavity.
Saliva is a secretion from the main and secondary salivary glands. It is an organic and inorganic component that consists of proteins, including important enzymes for digestion and anti-bacterial agents. Its composition includes chlorine, sodium, potassium, fluoride, calcium, magnesium, and proteins. In addition, there are also the epithelial cells, blood cells, and microorganisms in the mouth.
It is estimated that saliva may have one million microorganisms from 300 different strains per millilitre.
What are salivary glands?
There are four main salivary glands. Two sublingual and two parotids.
These sublingual glands are below the tongue and have two drainage canals, which end in orifices behind the central and inferior incisors. These orifices are responsible for saliva excretion in the mandible.
Parotids are located in the posterior part of the maxilla. Inside every cheekbone, there are orifices that serve as exits for the parotid.
From these canals, saliva is released and softens the bolus.
Why is saliva important?
Saliva helps with digestion, while protecting teeth and preventing their demineralisation. It is rich in calcium and phosphorus, which compensate for the acid demineralisation of the teeth, contributing to its continuous remineralisation. Small cavities can be healed if the causes are eliminated.
The digestive process is simple where saliva is involved, as it makes easier to empty the stomach. Abdominal distension after food ingestion is due to a full stomach.
Saliva helps you to speak properly.
It allows taste receptors to detect different food flavours.
The lack of saliva will undermine the use of removable prostheses, as it will make the adherence to the mucosa more difficult. Saliva acts as a connection between the prosthesis and gums with a retentive goal, which contributes to stability.
Saliva acts as a protection by decreasing bacterial propagation and creating a healthy oral environment. It has an anti-bacterial function and eliminates toxic substances caused by bacteria. Saliva is an organic fluid, which is constantly produced to keep the oral mucosa humid.
Saliva has an antiseptic action, despite the frequency of oral mucosa lesions and the contamination caused by microorganisms of the oral flora. Thus, an infection will rarely occur due to immunological factors that exist in the saliva.
Xerostomia (dry mouth) caused by age, medications, and systemic diseases such as diabetes contribute to an unbalanced oral environment. The risk of tooth decay and gum diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, will increase significantly. Without saliva, the chewing and swallowing of solid food will become painful, even if it is accompanied by water intake.
Curiosities about saliva… did you know?
- Men produce more saliva than women do during rest.
- The production varies in accordance with age. The highest production level is between 6 and 14 years old and it will decrease from the age of 20.
- Saliva can have microorganisms that may be transmitted from person to person and is responsible for diseases such as mumps.