Saliva is incredible stuff and often taken for granted by everyone. People only tend to realise just how important it is to the wellbeing of the oral cavity and the body in general when its flow is diminished! It’s made up of 99.5% water and the final 0.5% is dissolved substances such as proteins, enzymes, gases, waste products.
The main functions of saliva are:
1. Oral Hygiene – washing and antibacterial action helps to control disease of the oral cavity. This is why saliva is said to have antibacterial properties and why animals (and humans!) instinctively lick their wounds!
2. Speech – acts a lubricant. Recall a time when you’re nervous which produces adrenaline, which reduces saliva production and gives you a dry mouth.
3. Taste – saliva dissolves substances and allows the taste buds to recognise taste.
4. Helps maintain water balance of the body – when water is low, saliva is reduced producing thirst.
5. Excretion – trace amounts of urea and uric acid.
6. Digestion – saliva begins the breakdown of cooked starch.
7. Buffering action – helps maintain the neutral pH of the mouth, with the resting pH of the mouth being around 6.9.
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