Saliva is a clear liquid made by several glands in your mouth area. Saliva is an important part of a healthy body. It is mostly made of water. But saliva also contains important substances that your body needs to digest food and keep your teeth strong.
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 glands that make saliva are called salivary glands. The salivary glands sit inside each cheek, at the bottom of your mouth, and near your front teeth by the jaw bone.
At rest, without exogenous or pharmacological stimulation, there is a small, continuous salivary flow, an unstimulated secretion, present in the form of a film that covers, moisturises, and lubricates the oral tissues
You make saliva when you chew. The harder you chew, the more saliva you make. Sucking on a hard candy or cough drop helps you make saliva, too.
The two major functions of saliva are:
- Protection of the oral and peri-oral tissues
- Dilution of sugars after food and drink intake
- Antimicrobial and cleansing activity, degrading some bacterial cell walls and inhibiting growth
- Buffering (neutralising) acid production and controlling plaque pH with bicarbonate
- Remineralisation of enamel with calcium and phosphates
- Tissue repair
- Facilitating eating and speech
- Food preparation, enhancing chewing, the clearing of food residues and swallowing
- Digestion, food breakdown with enzymes
- Enhancing taste
- Enabling speech by lubricating the moving oral tissues
In addition to moderating microbial factors and encouraging preventive dietary behaviours, a core goal in caries prevention is promoting the natural protective mechanisms of saliva.