Saliva – your body’s amazing fluid

No-one wants to think of saliva. It’s gross, right? But we’re about to blow your mind. This body fluid is incredible, and for many good reasons.

Commonly known as spit, saliva is approximately 98% percent water with the other two percent made up of mucous, which includes electrolytes, antibacterial compounds and different enzymes which all work together to help with digestion.

Your salivary glands secrete saliva 24 hours a day – nearly two litres every day! Besides its normal duties of keeping your oral health in shape, saliva is also a window to your health, often used to check if you’re sick.

Juicy facts

  • It helps fight off germs in your mouth, keeps your breath fresh, and fends off tooth decay and gum disease with its proteins and minerals.
  • It makes use of enzymes during digestion to break down the food in your mouth.
  • It helps keep the inside of your mouth clean by constantly rinsing it.
  • It maintains balance in your body, so a change in saliva could mean that you’re sick. For example, look out for changes in the colour, consistency or amount of saliva you secrete per day.

Too little, too late?

Producing too much or too little saliva shouldn’t have you stressed – but you shouldn’t ignore it either. Too much saliva is usually due to an overactive salivary gland or a sign that you’re swallowing too much. If you aren’t secreting enough saliva, it could be because you have dry mouth.

Dry mouth is when your salivary glands aren’t able to produce enough saliva, making swallowing difficult. Your mouth may feel sticky, causing that dreaded bad breath. This condition is triggered by:

  • dehydration
  • certain medications
  • ageing
  • radiation therapy for cancer treatment.
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Keep a healthy flow

  • Drink lots of water every day and chew on sugar-free gum to keep your salivary glands in shape.
  • If a dry mouth persists even after you’ve had enough water, talk to your doctor.
  • If you have too much saliva to the point where you’re drooling, check this with your doctor.
  • If you have pain or swelling in your neck and trouble swallowing in addition to dry mouth, you may have a salivary stone. This is caused by a build-up of too much calcium in your salivary ducts. Speak to your doctor about this condition.