Functions of Saliva

Saliva performs a multiplicity of roles within the oral cavity, and like many things in life, its importance is usually not appreciated until it is absent. The functions of saliva include:

  • Lubricating the oral tissues (for swallowing and speech).
  • Assisting the special sense of taste, by acting as a solvent for ions, and through proteins such as gustin.
  • Maintaining the health of the oral mucosa, through growth factors which promote wound healing, and cystatins, which inhibit destructive enzymes such as cysteine proteases.
  • Assisting in digestion, through amylase, and lipase.
  • Dilution and clearing of material from the oral cavity,
  • Buffering acids from dental plaque and from consumed foods and drinks, and preventing erosion caused by episodes of prolonged exposure to weak acids (e.g. wines and black cola softdrinks) or short-term exposure to strong acids (e.g. reflux and vomiting).
  • Serving as a reservoir for ions (calcium, phosphorus, and fluoride) for remineralization, and
Controlling the oral microflora, through immunological (IgA), enzymatic, peptide and chemical mediators.

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