Question

Digestive Health

What is the role of saliva?

A Answers (2)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    When food enters your mouth, your glands secrete saliva to start the digestion process. Saliva also helps protect the teeth and gums from bacterial infection by inhibiting bacterial growth, and it spreads the taste all around your mouth (important for satisfaction).

    As you get older, that saliva tends to dry up—leading to the dry-mouth, lip-smacking, myaw-myaw-myaw that you may hear when older people talk. It's one of the reasons why drinking plenty of fluids can help combat the effects of aging. During this process of salivation, and as food travels down the esophagus, calories and nutrients start to come out of food into you.
  • Saliva serves many purposes. It contains enzymes that aid in digestion. Saliva makes it easier to talk, a fact recognized by those who experience stage fright and the associated dry mouth while giving a presentation.

    But saliva also helps prevent tooth decay by washing away food and debris from the teeth and gums. It neutralizes damaging acids, enhances the ability to taste food and makes it easier to swallow. Minerals found in saliva also help repair microscopic tooth decay.
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