The teeth and oral tissues are constantly bathed in saliva. Saliva is secreted by the salivary glands. The production of saliva increases when food or drinks are consumed. Its presence is vital to the maintenance of healthy oral tissue. Saliva has many functions including the following:
Functions of Saliva
- Fluid/Lubricant: Coats mucosa and helps to protect against mechanical, thermal and chemical irritation. Assists smooth airflow, speech and swallowing.
- Ion Reservoir: Holds ions needed for maintenance of enamel near the tooth. Helps prevent decay.
- Buffer: Helps to neutralise plaque acids after eating, thus helps prevent decay.
- Cleansing: Clears food and aids swallowing.
- Antimicrobial actions: Anti-microbial mechanisms in saliva help control the bacteria in the mouth.
- Pellicle formation: Protective coating formed on enamel from salivary proteins.
- Taste: Saliva acts as a solvent thus allowing interaction of foodstuff with taste buds to facilitate taste.