Saliva is usually thought of as something that’s pretty gross. It’s just something that’s there, and we don’t really think about it unless it embarrasses us—like when we fall asleep in class and drool, or accidentally spit on someone while talking. But your spit does some pretty amazing things for our bodies, and we need it for a lot of reasons. Here are a few facts about it that you might be interested in learning about saliva.
Saliva is 99.5% Water
The other .5 percent is made up of electrolytes, mucus, cells, proteins, enzymes, and antimicrobial agents. All of these ingredients are there for a reason. The antimicrobial agents kill bacteria. The mucus keeps out mouth lubricated so we don’t develop sores. The enzymes begin breaking down your food before you swallow it. Pretty amazing.
You Produce a Lot of It
Saliva production varies from person to person, but on average we produce about a quart of saliva per day.
We swallow almost all of this (thank goodness). The only saliva you don’t swallow is what you spit or drool out. And I hope that’s not a lot.
It Regulates Acid in Your Mouth
Your spit keeps the pH in your mouth between 6.2 and 7.4 so that your teeth and gums don’t start to dissolve.
It Lubricates Your Mouth
Imagine eating something crunchy if your mouth was completely dry. You would probably injure them in some way, and at the very least, the food would stick to your mouth. With saliva as a lubricant, you can protect your mouth and also wash away food after you’ve eaten in.
Without it, You'll Get More Cavities
If you didn’t have saliva to wash away the food, you would develop tooth decay. Your chance of developing periodontal disease would also increase dramatically. Your spit keeps your mouth clean when you’re not brushing your teeth, which is like 23 hours and 56 minutes a day.
It Begins the Digestive Process
Your stomach can’t do all the work. The saliva is produced by the salivary glands, which produce even more when you smell or see something tasty. The liquid makes your food softer, and the enzymes begin to break down carbohydrates. Of course, your teeth and tongue play a big part in this process as well, but saliva has a big job of its own.
You Need it to Taste Your Food
There is no flavor if there is no saliva. For you to taste, what’s inside your food needs to be dissolved by saliva. Try it out by drying off your tongue and placing something salty on it. Then drink some water and do it again. You’ll only taste it the second time.
It Contains Antibodies
In the mucus in your saliva is immunoglobin. It’s also in other bodily fluids like tears and sweat. This antibody identifies and neutralizes bacteria and viruses.
Its Production Drops Significantly When You Sleep
For most people, saliva production decreases while they sleep, so they don’t drool or have to swallow too much. This is why you wake up with “morning breath” and why it’s so important to brush right after you wake up. When your mouth gets dry, bacteria can hang out and wreak havoc. Get that bacteria out of there soon after your alarm goes off.