Open mouth: The saliva
Humans produce 25,000 litres of saliva on average in their lives. What many people don’t know: Our saliva is a true all-rounder and fulfils many important functions in the oral cavity. Without it, for example, we could not swallow dry bread at all. Saliva therefore makes our food slippery and is necessary for our swallowing. If there was no saliva, we would hurt ourselves with sharp pieces of food in our mouths. And this despite the fact that it consists of 99 percent water. The special components of saliva make up only one percent: mucilages, the so-called mucins, electrolytes, proteins and immunoglobulins, to name but a few.
But saliva is not only there to swallow our food and protect the oral cavity from dehydration. He is jointly responsible for the development of the various tastes during the meal and then initiates the digestive process. An enzyme starts to break down the carbohydrates and does a preliminary work, which is continued in the stomach. The saliva also contains the active ingredient histatin, which helps to heal wounds more quickly. The saliva is antibacterial due to its special proteins and is therefore a miracle weapon in the fight against pathogens.
The saliva is especially important for our teeth. Due to its slightly alkaline composition, it neutralizes acid attacks on the teeth by acidic food components and thus protects them from caries. Saliva also contains minerals that harden the enamel, such as fluoride. Our saliva also has a remineralizing and to some extent repairing function for the teeth.
The autonomic nervous system is responsible for the amount of saliva produced. Certain external factors such as smell or appearance of a foodstuff play a major role, as do internal factors such as stress. Thus, when we see a tasty dish,’our mouth is watering’, or from nervousness or fear, we can literally ‘keep our spit off’. In case of prolonged dry mouth, however, a doctor should be consulted.