Saliva is composed of water, proteins, and electrolytes. These components are crucial in attaining the functions attributed to the saliva. The two key functions of saliva are: protecting the peri-oral and oral tissues, and facilitating speech and eating.
PROTECTIVE FUNCTION OF SALIVA
The mineralized tissues in the mouth are susceptible to attack because of its exposure to the environment inside the mouth. The salivary glands act as the protective organs for your dentition. The saliva helps in the neutralization of the acid through its buffering systems. The enamel surface adsorbs the salivary proteins to form enamel pellicle which protects the enamel from acid abrasion. Saturation of phosphate, the salivary proline-rich proteins, and calcium assists in maintaining the electrolyte solution in the mouth and serve as a medium of calcium transfer to the surface of the enamel. The existing balance between de- and re-mineralization helps in protecting your teeth from decalcification which reduces the abrasion activity resulting from the mastication of food.
The flushing action of the saliva in the mouth helps in maintaining the cleanliness of the teeth. This activity is enhanced by the presence of glycolytic and proteolytic enzymes in the saliva. Saliva also protects the soft integuments of the oral cavity by moistening the mucosal tissues which enhance wound healing.
OTHER FUNCTIONS OF SALIVA
Saliva moistens and lubricates the mouth. The presence of enough moisture in the mouth helps in changing solid food into a semisolid mass for easy swallowing. Saliva lubricates the moving oral tissues to enable speech. Saliva helps in keeping the body hydrated by maintaining the body’s water balance. In cases of insufficient water in the body, the mouth becomes dry due to dehydration of the salivary glands resulting in a thirst sensation that stimulates your need to drink.
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