Saliva is not something you think about often, but it helps maintain oral health and aid digestion. This complex fluid comprises many components that work harmoniously together. Consisting primarily of water, saliva also contains electrolytes, mucus, enzymes, immunoglobulins, proteins, antibacterial compounds, and nitrogenous compounds.

Each constituent serves a specific purpose, from providing lubrication and protection to combating harmful bacteria and aiding digestion. Saliva is more than just a mundane bodily fluid—it is essential for keeping your mouth and body in excellent shape.

The Constituents of Saliva

Saliva, often called "spit," is a fluid your salivary glands produce. It might not be something you ponder often, but it plays a vital role in maintaining oral health and aiding digestion. Saliva is a concoction of various substances working harmoniously to perform its functions. Below is the saliva’s composition:

  • Water. A staggering 95% of saliva is water, the fluid foundation that transports other substances and moistens your mouth.
  • Electrolytes. Saliva contains essential electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphates, and bicarbonate. These minerals contribute to fluid balance in your body and play a role in saliva's overall composition.
  • Mucus. Saliva comprises a slimy substance known as mucus, which lubricates and shields your oral tissues, ensuring comfort and moisture.
  • Enzymes. Vital enzymes reside in saliva, kickstarting the process of digestion. These enzymes diligently break down food particles, facilitating the extraction of nutrients by your body.
  • Immunoglobulins. Saliva is armed with immunoglobulins, including antibodies that combat harmful bacteria to safeguard your oral health.
  • Proteins. Various proteins make their presence felt in saliva, each contributing to its overall functionality and aiding in maintaining a healthy oral environment.
  • Antibacterial Compounds. Saliva harbors antibacterial compounds like secretory mucins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, and peroxidase. These compounds act as sentinels, preventing bacteria from wreaking havoc on your oral health.
  • Nitrogenous Compounds. Saliva also contains nitrogenous compounds, such as urea and ammonia, which are byproducts of your body's metabolic processes.

As seen above, saliva is a blend of several components working together to accomplish its tasks. Remember, saliva is far more than just a mundane bodily fluid. Its significance spans from oral health to digestion; it keeps your mouth and body in excellent shape.

Saliva is Important

Saliva is more than just a fluid in your mouth. As mentioned above, saliva maintains your oral health and overall well-being. You may not give it much thought, but saliva offers many benefits to your daily life. The importance of saliva includes:

Waste Removal from the Mouth

Saliva has a natural ability to clean your mouth. After you eat or drink, waste materials can accumulate, posing a risk to your oral health. Saliva comes to the rescue, effortlessly removing yeast, viruses, and bacteria that may have attached to your teeth from the food you consume or even from the air you breathe. This waste removal process helps prevent dental-related infections and keeps your mouth fresh and clean.

Saliva combats harmful bacteria that could lead to dental diseases. Dental disease is never enjoyable, but thankfully, saliva contains enzymes that provide a formidable defense.

For example, lysozyme, an enzyme found in saliva, breaks down bacterial cell walls, inhibiting their growth and reducing disease risks. Another essential enzyme, lactoferrin, prevents bacteria from obtaining iron, a nutrient they need to thrive and cause havoc in the mouth. Saliva's antimicrobial peptides take it further by attaching to bacteria and effectively killing them. These multiple defense mechanisms protect your teeth and gums, ensuring your oral health remains in good shape.

Protects Your Immune System

Saliva also plays a crucial role in bolstering your immune system. It actively contributes to your body's defense against harmful microorganisms and helps maintain overall well-being. Saliva binds to the mucus layer in your mouth, creating a protective barrier that shields your body from dangerous invaders. This layer is the first line of defense that prevents microorganisms from penetrating your system.

Within saliva, plasma B cells diligently produce Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies, strengthening the mucus layer and providing extra protection. These antibodies keep your mouth and body healthy, keeping harmful microorganisms at bay.

Furthermore, saliva exhibits another remarkable feature by helping suppress immune system overreactions. Sometimes, harmless proteins in your food can trigger an inflammatory response or allergic reaction in the mouth and throat. Saliva becomes your defense because it produces cells that suppress the immune system and prevent these overreactions, ensuring your comfort and well-being.

Prevent Dental Diseases

A dry mouth can result in dental problems and significantly impact oral health. Saliva helps prevent dental diseases such as plaque buildup, gum disease, and cavities. Individuals with dry mouths are more susceptible to these conditions due to the reduced saliva flow and the lack of enzymes that combat bacteria. Dentists advise that you maintain adequate saliva flow for optimal oral health.

Saliva prevents dental diseases using various enzymes, including lysozyme and lactoferrin, discussed earlier. These enzymes actively work against bacteria, breaking down their cell walls and inhibiting their ability to cause harm. Saliva's antimicrobial peptides also contribute to the defense, attaching to bacteria and eradicating them. You provide your mouth with natural protection against dental diseases if you maintain a healthy saliva flow.

Preventing Gum Infections

One of the critical functions of saliva is neutralizing the acidic contents of the meals you consume daily. Imagine the acidic substances in your food eroding your teeth' enamel. Fortunately for you, saliva neutralizes these acids, preventing any damage. It acts as a protective shield, ensuring that the acidic contents are reduced to a non-toxic level.

Saliva also helps wash away food particles and sugar left in your mouth after meals. When broken down, these remnants can produce acidic contents that contribute to dental caries or gum infections. Saliva plays a vital role in preventing oral health issues by countering and eliminating these substances.

For example, you enjoy a delicious sandwich made with bread, a starchy food. The carbohydrates in bread can sometimes interfere with the natural flow of saliva. However, saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down these carbohydrates into sugars for easier nutrient assimilation. So, even when you consume starch-rich foods, saliva ensures that the natural flow of this incredible fluid is maintained.

Additionally, saliva contains essential minerals like calcium and phosphate that improve the strength of your tooth enamel. These minerals act as reinforcements, making your teeth more resistant to decay and damage.

Helping in Digestion

Did you know that saliva also helps in food digestion? Digestion starts the moment you catch a whiff of a delicious meal or begin chewing your food. Your salivary glands immediately secrete saliva to prepare your mouth for digestion.

As you chew, saliva lubricates the food and stimulates your taste buds, enhancing your sensory experience. Also, saliva binds food particles, forming a slippery substance called a "bolus." This bolus easily enters the esophagus and begins the breakdown of food particles through the action of enzymes like amylase.

Lubrication makes it easier for you to swallow, which is an essential part of the digestion process. The amylase enzyme in saliva breaks down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars, facilitating their absorption by your body. Saliva protects your throat and esophagus, shielding them from irritation and damage.

If you ever experience a dry mouth with reduced saliva, you may encounter difficulties chewing and speaking. In such situations, consult your dentist to promptly identify and address the underlying cause. Your oral health is closely connected to adequate saliva, so maintain optimal saliva flow for proper digestion and overall well-being.

Fosters Formation of Healthy Plaque Biofilm

When you hear the word "plaque," you might immediately associate it with something negative for your oral health. However, a healthy plaque biofilm is beneficial in your mouth. And saliva is involved in its formation and maintenance.

After you diligently floss and clean your teeth, a thin film called a “pellicle” forms on the enamel surface. This salivary protein acts as a magnet, attracting free-floating bacteria and accumulating them into larger clumps. When you swallow or spit saliva out, these clumps are disposed of, preventing them from causing harm in your mouth.

Furthermore, the pellicle acts as a protective barrier, shielding your teeth against demineralization caused by acidic substances in your mouth. By preventing demineralization, saliva helps reverse the process of tooth decay.

Makes Teeth Dentures Secure and Stable

For those who wear dentures, saliva helps with their stability and security. Saliva creates suction between the gum tissue and the dentures, keeping them firmly in place. This suction is instrumental in preventing dentures from slipping or causing discomfort while eating or speaking.

As you age, however, salivary production may decrease. Lower production can affect the stability of your dentures. If you find that your salivary rate is reducing, consult a dentist. Your dentist can provide options to boost your salivary rate and ensure the continued security of your dentures for years to come.

In addition to providing stability, saliva is a lubricant for the gum tissues underneath the dentures. This helps prevent irritation and abrasion, keeping your gums comfortable and healthy. With saliva's lubricating effect, you can enjoy the benefits of dentures without worrying about discomfort or soreness.

Saliva also has another interesting effect on dentures. It contains useful minerals that can contribute to the overall health of your oral tissues. Calcium and phosphate in saliva can improve the strength of your gum tissue and provide additional support for your dentures.

Boosting Your Oral Microbiome

Maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad microbes in your mouth is essential for oral health. Saliva plays a crucial role in supporting the oral microbiome. The proteins and mucins in saliva help destroy or aggregate certain oral bacteria, preventing their attachment to surfaces and colonization in specific areas. By maintaining a balanced oral microbiome, saliva helps prevent the overgrowth of cavity-causing bacteria and reduces the risk of dental problems.

Lubricating the Mouth

Saliva acts as a natural lubricant, coating the surfaces of your mouth and protecting them from irritation. It prevents your tongue, gums, cheeks, and other oral tissues from being irritated by various factors like enzymes in plaque, carcinogens from smoking, and dry mouth caused by mouth breathing. The lubricating effect of saliva also facilitates speech by ensuring smooth movement of the oral structures.

Buffering Acids

Saliva helps clear away food debris and buffer acids that can harm your teeth. It contains compounds like urea, bicarbonate, phosphate, histidine-rich peptides, and amphoteric proteins and enzymes with buffering capabilities. Bicarbonate, neutralizes acids and spreads into dental plaque to maintain a balanced pH. This buffering function of saliva helps protect your tooth enamel from acid erosion and reduces the risk of cavities.

Keeping Your Teeth Strong

Saliva plays a significant role in maintaining the strength of your teeth. It supports the remineralization process, where minerals are delivered to your teeth to repair and strengthen them. Throughout the day, your teeth undergo a cycle of remineralization and demineralization.

Adequate salivary flow and a proper pH level (6-7) allow saliva to transport minerals and counteract the effects of acids that can weaken tooth enamel. By promoting remineralization, saliva helps keep your teeth strong and less prone to decay.


Your saliva contributes to the sense of taste. It interacts with taste buds to solubilize molecules in food, allowing you to experience distinct flavors. Without saliva, food flavors would not be as pronounced or enjoyable. The presence of saliva enhances your tasting experience, making meals more satisfying.

Identifying Systemic Health Issues

Saliva contains proteins and DNA that can provide valuable insights into your overall health. It can be used to identify potential disease risks or existing problems. Salivary tests have shown promise in detecting conditions such as:

  • Oral, brain, and neck cancer,
  • Male-pattern baldness,
  • Acne,
  • Viruses like HIV
  • Premature aging
  • Cardiovascular concerns,
  • Chronic stress,
  • Allergies,
  • Fertility issues,
  • Low body temperature,
  • Calcium absorption problems,
  • Sleep disruptions,

With the help of dentists, healthcare professionals can gain valuable information about your systemic health by analyzing your saliva and taking the necessary actions for early intervention and treatment.

Find a Dentist Near Me

Saliva contributes significantly to your oral health and overall well-being. Its constituents work in synergy to provide various benefits, including waste removal from the mouth, protection against harmful bacteria, bolstering the immune system, and prevention of dental diseases and gum infections, among many other benefits mentioned above. The intricate composition and functions of saliva highlight its indispensability in maintaining a healthy oral environment and a thriving body.

If you experience issues with low saliva production and other dental problems, maintain good oral hygiene, stay hydrated, and seek professional dental care regularly. At Lasting Impressions Dental Spa, we have qualified dentists who can offer quality treatment services if you have dental issues in Encino, CA. Call us today at 818-751-5100 to book your dental clinic visit.