- For the band, see Saliva (band); for the village in Azerbaijan, see Səliva.
Saliva is the watery and usually frothy substance produced in the mouths of humans and most other animals. Saliva is produced in and secreted from the salivary glands. Human saliva is composed mostly of water, but also includes electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds, and various enzymes. As part of the initial process of food digestion, the enzymes in the saliva break down some of the starch and fat in the food at the molecular level. Saliva also breaks down food caught in the teeth, protecting them from bacteria that cause decay. Furthermore, saliva lubricates and protects the teeth, the tongue, and the tender tissues inside the mouth.
Various species have evolved special uses for saliva that go beyond predigestion. Some swifts use their gummy saliva to build their nests. Some Aerodramus swiftlet nests are made only from saliva and used to make bird's nest soup. Cobras, vipers, and certain other members of the venom clade hunt with venomous saliva injected by fangs. Some arthropods, such as spiders and caterpillars, create thread from salivary glands.
The digestive functions of saliva include moistening food, and helping to create a food bolus
, so it can be swallowed easily. Saliva contains the enzyme amylase
that breaks some starches
down into maltose
. Thus, digestion of food occurs within the mouth, even before food reaches the stomach
. Salivary glands also secrete enzymes (salivary lipase) to start fat digestion.
A common belief is that saliva contained in the mouth has natural disinfectants
, which leads people to believe it is beneficial to "lick their wounds". Researchers at the University of Florida
have discovered a protein
called nerve growth factor
(NGF) in the saliva of mice
. Wounds doused with NGF healed twice as fast as untreated and unlicked wounds; therefore, saliva can help to heal wounds in some species. NGF has not been found in human saliva; however, researchers find human saliva contains such antibacterial
agents as secretory IgA
, and lactoperoxidase
. It has not been shown that human licking of wounds disinfects them, but licking is likely to help clean the wound by removing larger contaminants such as dirt and may help to directly remove infective bodies by brushing them away. Therefore, licking would be a way of wiping off pathogens, useful if clean water is not available to the animal or person.
The mouth of animals is the habitat of many bacteria, some pathogenic. Some diseases, such as herpes, can be transmitted through the mouth. Animal (including human) bites are routinely treated with systemic antibiotics because of the risk of septicemia.
Recent research suggests that the saliva of birds is a better indicator of avian influenza than are faecal samples.
Saliva is an effective cleaning agent
used in art conservation
. Cotton swabs
coated with saliva are rolled across a paintings surface to delicately remove thin layers of dirt that may accumulate.
The production of saliva is stimulated both by the sympathetic nervous system
and the parasympathetic
The saliva stimulated by sympathetic innervation is thicker, and saliva stimulated parasympathetically is more watery.
Parasympathetic stimulation leads to acetylcholine (ACh) release onto the salivary acinar cells. ACh binds to muscarinic receptors and causes an increased intracellular calcium ion concentration (through the IP3/DAG second messenger system). Increased calcium causes vesicles within the cells to fuse with the apical cell membrane leading to secretion formation. ACh also causes the salivary gland to release kallikrein, an enzyme that converts kininogen to lysyl-bradykinin. Lysyl-bradykinin acts upons blood vessels and capillaries of the salivary gland to generate vasodilation and increased capillary permeability respectively. The resulting increased blood flow to the acinar allows production of more saliva. Lastly, both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous stimulation can lead to myoepitheilium contraction which causes the expulsion of secretions from the secretory acinus into the ducts and eventually to the oral cavity.
Daily salivary output
There has been some disagreement regarding the daily salivary output of a healthy individual. Today, it is believed that the average person produces approximately 0.75 L of saliva per day, less than half of the output originally thought produced.
It is produced at a rate of 1-1.5 L/day. 20mL/hr at rest, 250 mL/hr under stimulated conditions. While sleeping, salivary flow drops to almost zero.
Produced in salivary glands
, human saliva is 98% water
, but it contains many important substances, including electrolytes
compounds and various enzymes
It is a fluid containing:
- Mucus. Mucus in saliva mainly consists of mucopolysaccharides and glycoproteins;
- Antibacterial compounds (thiocyanate, hydrogen peroxide, and secretory immunoglobulin A)
- Various enzymes. There are three major enzymes found in saliva.
- α-amylase (EC126.96.36.199). Amylase starts the digestion of starch and lipase fat before the food is even swallowed. It has a pH optima of 7.4.
- lysozyme (EC188.8.131.52). Lysozyme acts to cause lysis in bacteria.
- lingual lipase (EC184.108.40.206). Lingual lipase has a pH optimum ~4.0 so it is not activated till entering an acidic environment.
- Minor enzymes include salivary acid phosphatases A+B (EC220.127.116.11), N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanine amidase (EC18.104.22.168), NAD(P)H dehydrogenase-quinone (EC22.214.171.124), salivary lactoperoxidase (EC126.96.36.199), superoxide dismutase (EC188.8.131.52), glutathione transferase (EC184.108.40.206), class 3 aldehyde dehydrogenase (EC220.127.116.11), glucose-6-phosphate isomerase (EC18.104.22.168), and tissue kallikrein (EC22.214.171.124).
- Cells: Possibly as much as 8 million human and 500 million bacterial cells per mL. The presence of bacterial products (small organic acids, amines, and thiols) causes saliva to sometimes exhibit foul odor.
- Opiorphin, a newly researched pain-killing substance found in human saliva.
Different reagents used to determine the content of saliva
1. Molisch test gives a positive result of purple color that is costituent to the presence of carbohydrates