Saliva is more interesting than you think–from preventing cavities to breaking down food, saliva is a multifaceted component that aids us each day. More than 750 small glands in your mouth generate saliva, and it’s comprised of 99 percent water. Astonishing, isn’t it?
Discover six interesting facts about saliva that you probably didn’t know already.
1. You could generate enough saliva to top off two medium-sized bathtubs each year.
Did you know that on average, most people produce about a quart of saliva per day? That’s enough to fill two bathtubs a year!
Saliva production fluctuates tremendously, depending on each person and various elements. But in most cases, you’re likely to produce less saliva when you’re sleeping or dehydrated, and usually, as you grow older.
2. Food molecules dissolve in your saliva before being recognized by your taste buds.
Saliva is primarily composed of water and is an essential component for breaking down food. Without saliva, it would be nearly impossible to digest foods, as they wouldn’t be deconstructed.
It distributes food to your taste receptors in order to be recognized and savored. Saliva also keeps your taste buds moist and healthy so they can do their job. It carries enzymes that launch the digestive process by helping to break down starches and fats. This softens foods, which allows you to chew and swallow it easier.
It’s an advantage for people with aligners, which Invisalign? providers like Dr. Amanda Sheehan advise against hard and chewy snacks.
3. Saliva helps wounds in the mouth regenerate faster than wounds anywhere else on the body.
Have you ever heard of the phrase lick your wounds? It didn’t just come out of nowhere. In fact, it’s derived from saliva’s ability to fight infection. Your saliva helps create a humid environment in your mouth, which helps out cells that you need to heal wounds.
Saliva contains antibodies that fight germs, proteins to promote healing, and additional components that stimulate skin cell growth and blood clotting. That’s why cuts in your mouth usually stop bleeding quickly and heal faster than other body wounds.
4. When you’re anxious or scared, your saliva production is lowered.
When the brain senses danger or stress, the digestive system shuts down to conserve energy as a response called fight or flight. This causes a considerable decrease in your saliva production.
It’s incredibly common to experience dry mouth when you’re feeling uneasy. There’s a range of additional factors that result in lower saliva production and even dry mouth, such as:
- Dry, hot weather
- Heavy exercise
- Some medications
- Certain medical conditions
- Smoking tobacco
If you’re experiencing severe dry mouth, dentists like Dr. Mike Choe may recommend certain medications to help stimulate saliva or fit you for fluoride trays to wear overnight.
5. Chewing sugar-free gum boosts your saliva production–and it’s good for your teeth!
It’s time to start chewing gum on the regular–several studies have found that chewing sugar-free gum can help prevent cavities due to its high levels of calcium, fluoride, and phosphate. Make sure that the first ingredient is xylitol or sorbitol, or else the gum likely won’t help.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop brushing your teeth. Dentists like Dr. Edward Hobbs recommend brushing at least twice a day, along with regular flossing and rinsing with mouthwash.
Plus, chewing gum stimulates healthy saliva production, which helps kill bacteria, and fight infection and tooth decay. Saliva protects your teeth and gums while lubricating the mouth. That’s why persistent dry mouth can cause cavities and gum disease.
6. There are five different types of saliva.
Did you know there’s more than one type of saliva? Each kind has its own purpose:
- Cephalic is produced when you see, smell, or think of mouth-watering food, literally!
- Buccal is stimulated after taking a bite of food to help the digestive process.
- Esophageal is brought on as food travels through your esophagus.
- Gastric is induced before vomiting.
- Intestinal is provoked when the food you’ve eaten irritates your intestines.
It’s surprising how much saliva impacts our day to day functions, and really, our entire body. Saliva is a powerful component that’s often overlooked and unrecognized. But after learning these fun facts, we can all learn to appreciate our saliva a little more.