Curious Aspects of Saliva

Throughout our lives, it's estimated that we produce about 70000 pints of saliva. This natural substance has numerous functions, and below we tell you all about them!
Curious Aspects of Saliva

Last update: 05 March, 2021

Saliva is the clear liquid that we produce in the saliva glands in our mouths. We can find these glands in both cheeks, under the tongue, and in the front part of the mouth. They continuously produce this substance.

Although we may not realize it, saliva has many more functions than we would think. It doesn’t just help us to digest our food. It participates in numerous processes like maintaining our mouths in a healthy state.

Specialists have determined that it’s almost entirely water. Although, it does also contain different substances that account for just 1% of its total makeup. In fact, saliva is a good indicator of the concentration of some substances in our body – like certain drugs.

In this article, we explain some of the curious aspects of saliva. Many people probably don’t know much about its characteristics or the importance of it in our bodies.

How much saliva do we produce?

Our saliva glands produce saliva continuously, even though the amount varies due to certain stimuli. In fact, the peak production times are before, during, and after food. Similarly, the amount reduces when we sleep.

In total, we produce almost two and a half pints a day. Hunger isn’t the only stimulant that acts on saliva; situations of stress or sexual arousal also increase the production.

There are certain situations where the opposite happens: a decrease in the amount of saliva our bodies produce. For example, smoking tobacco or consuming marijuana. This causes an imbalance that especially harms the condition of our teeth and mouth.

What functions does saliva have in the mouth?

As we mentioned above, this clear liquid is essential for maintaining good oral health. This is because it acts as a natural antibacterial. Saliva contains many substances that defend us against infections, like a protein called estaterina.

Additionally, it helps to regulate the pH level in our mouths, and it stops acid levels from increasing. These can harm the teeth and mucose. It works as a lubricant for these parts, too, and acts as a kind of protection against any injury.

A woman with her mouth open.

It’s essential for our sense of taste

The small percentage of saliva’s genetic makeup that isn’t water, contains certain substances that work to activate the taste buds. They’re receptors on the tongue that unleash our sense of taste.

These receptors can only work when wet. Saliva does this and allows them to function correctly. For this reason, we can taste our food. However, when we have little saliva in our mouths, we can’t experience this sensation.

Saliva contains an opioid substance

Opioids are substances that come from opium, which we use as painkillers. Some examples would be morphine or heroin. One of the curious aspects of saliva is that it contains opio-morphine.

Opio-morphine acts as a natural painkiller, and is related to the pleasurable sensation that we experience when we eat, among other things. It seems to be six times stronger than morphine. Specialists are currently investigating its potential use as a treatment.

A woman showing her mouth.

It plays an important role when it comes to sexuality

We previously mentioned that the amount of saliva increases during sex or arousal. But this isn’t the only way it intervenes in our sexuality. Some scientists confirm that this liquid also has an important mechanism for hormonal communication.

Kissing someone produces an exchange of fluids between both parties. It seems that the concentration of different hormones can increase the other person’s arousal.

To conclude, it’s important to mention that saliva can be a very good indicator of certain illnesses. In fact, a reduction in the amount you typically produce is one of the first symptoms that appear in certain illnesses or syndromes, like Sjögren syndrome. For that reason, we should pay attention to our saliva and take good care of our mouths.

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