Ask a Family Dentist: Why Do We Have Saliva in Our Mouths?

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One does not have to visit a family dentist to know that saliva is the clear liquid that is produced by the glands in your mouth. But why do we even have saliva and what is it for? It probably didn’t occur to you that saliva is an important function of your dental health and an essential part of your digestive system. Your family dentist will tell you that ignoring your saliva’s health it can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and even dry mouth.

Facts about saliva

What is saliva

Most of our saliva is made up of water, 98 percent to be exact. The other two percent contains different enzymes, minerals and proteins, including mucus that help to prevent bad breath and kills germs. Saliva also helps to stave off gum disease and tooth decay. Saliva assists in the breakdown of the food and drinks for proper digestion. It keeps the mouth moist which helps with chewing and swallowing. Saliva also helps to deliver a speedy recovery to open wounds.

How does saliva get to the mouth?

There are three glands, the salivary glands, that contribute to the production of saliva. The parotid, which is inside the cheeks, the sublingual, which is under the tongue, and the submandibular, which is near the jawbone. These salivary glands work in sync with the hundreds of smaller glands within the mouth to produce up to 4 pints of saliva per day.

The salivary ducts are very small tubes that bring saliva into the mouth from the salivary glands. Salivation occurs when salivary glands are triggered, sometimes by just the smell of food. The anticipation of the meal leads to what some people refer to as, “mouth-watering.”

Why is saliva important?

Saliva is an important component of the digestive system. Not only does it help protect oral hygiene by preventing gum disease and tooth decay, it is also helpful for maintaining a healthy body. Research has shown that saliva has antimicrobial abilities as well. It’s constantly swirling around in the mouth, removing small bits of food, acid and bacteria and coats the teeth, protecting tooth enamel.

Saliva is responsible for the love and care of your teeth. It repairs damaged enamel as it contains calcium, fluoride and other minerals that help keep teeth healthy and strong.

Saliva is an impressive part of the digestive system. It contains the enzyme called amylase which helps by breaking down food particles. Saliva, along with chewing, helps to breakdown food to make it easier to swallow and eventually digest in the stomach.

What happens when saliva is not present?

When mouths go dry

In some instances, people do get dry mouth, called xerostomia. Talk to a family dentist if there is the possibility of having dry mouth. They have more information for ways to thwart gum disease and tooth decay due to xerostomia. Without saliva production, the mouth can become disposed to infections and bacteria. Swallowing food and digestion will become more difficult. This can all lead to bad breath.

Some causes of dry mouth

There are diseases that can cause dry mouth, such as, diabetes and certain cancer treatments. Smoking is another culprit. Medications can sometimes be the cause for dry mouth, including certain medicines labeled for depression, allergies, asthma and high blood pressure medications.


Keeping good oral hygiene practices at the forefront can ensure that saliva is healthy and doing the job it is supposed to do. Avoid unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking habits. Talk to a doctor if you think that medications are contributing to dry mouth. Get regular check-ups at a family dentist. Lastly, drink plenty of water to maintain proper hydration

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