Saliva, better known as “spit,” is one of the unsung heroes of the body. OK, maybe that was a little dramatic, but hopefully, after reading this post, you’ll have a higher appreciation for saliva: whether it’s your own or your baby’s drool or even your teenager’s (temporary?) fixation on spitting. Saliva has some fun and interesting features you may not know about.
- Saliva helps you taste your food. That might sound a little weird, but saliva is responsible for spreading a food’s tastants around to the tastebuds, thus enabling you to enjoy all the different flavors of your meal.
- Saliva starts the digestive process! It’s true: your spit contains an enzyme called amylase that begins the process of breaking down starches. The more you chew your food and work that amylase into your food, the easier life is for the rest of your digestive system.
- Saliva repairs your teeth. Acids from food attack your teeth and start breaking down your enamel. Spit to the rescue! Your saliva works to recoat your teeth with its ph-neutral self and replaces the minerals stolen by the acids. (Here’s a tip: chewing sugar-free gum activates your salivary glands and increases the percentage of bicarbonate in your saliva, thus raising your saliva’s ability to remove foods particles and acids, surround your teeth, and rebuild your enamel. Moms, you can let your kids have all the sugar-free gum they want. It’s good for their teeth.)
- Saliva protects your teeth from each other. Most of us are aware of the fact that teeth are the hardest structure in the body. Here’s the thing: they’re constantly grinding against each other. Without saliva, your teeth would chip and damage each other, but saliva acts as a lubricant and keeps them from wearing down prematurely.
- Saliva production varies from person to person, but in general, your salivary glands produce 2-4 pints of spit every day.
- Saliva helps you heal. Ever wonder why, when you bite your lip, the cut seems to go away pretty quickly? You can thank saliva and its antibodies for that. Your mouth heals more quickly than most other parts of your body.
So, back to the beginning: spit might not totally deserve the title “unsung hero,” but it’s definitely a noteworthy and essential part of your health and wellbeing. Here’s to saliva!