Let’s Talk About Saliva
By: Dr. Kaitlin Haag
Every person on the planet deals with saliva on a daily basis. If you’re a parent in Nebraska (or anywhere), you probably dealt with a lot of saliva while your little one was teething! There are so many names for it! Spit, drool, slobber, spittle, froth, and probably a lot of other ones I can’t think of right now. Let’s dive right in (pun intended) and find out more!
So, what is saliva? It is a liquid that is made from cells in your salivary glands. Saliva contains minerals that help your teeth harden or remineralize. When baby teeth come in they are softer and gradually harden more as they are bathed in saliva.
Dry mouth is a side effect of many medications. It’s an uncomfortable feeling and can lead to dental complications because your saliva isn’t cleansing your teeth as much. Since we want the happiest smiles and the happiest kids in Nebraska, we want to make sure that even their spit is healthy by making sure they’re drinking plenty of water.
Saliva is made of water, mucus, proteins, mineral salts, and amylase. Amylase is a digestive enzyme that starts breaking down complex carbohydrates. Saliva also helps with our speech! And it is important in helping to control our bodies water balance, so grab a cold, refreshing glass of water and drink up!
Where does saliva come from? We have three sets of major salivary glands in our mouths: the sublingual salivary glands, the submandibular salivary glands, and the parotid glands. We also have several hundred minor salivary glands on our tongue, palate, lips and cheeks.
The sublingual salivary glands are about the size of an almond and are underneath the tongue, in what we call the floor of the mouth. Sub means under and lingual means tongue. These glands produce mainly mucus and it comes out of the Bartholin’s ducts. If you, or a friend, have ever been able to “gleek” or squirt spit by moving your tongue, you know it comes from the sublingual salivary glands.
The submandibular glands are found under the mandible or jaw. The saliva they produce comes out of the Wharton’s ducts.
The parotid salivary glands are the largest ones and are found between the ear and the jaw. The saliva they produce comes from the Stensen’s ducts.
All these glands are super busy and produce one to two liters a day! Most of the saliva we create we swallow. Saliva is important because it lubricates our mouths, helps us swallow, helps us digest the food we eat, and protects our teeth from getting cavities by washing food and bacteria off of them.