It's a funny, odd, kind of gross thing, and it’s common to humans and animals alike. But what's the purpose of all that saliva in your mouth? You'd be surprised. Here are 12 unusual, interesting, intriguing, and, occasionally, downright strange facts you probably don't know about saliva.1. It is 98% water.
We’ve all heard that our bodies are much more liquid than solid. Saliva is just another example of this. If you’re wondering what the other 2 percent of saliva is, it’s comprised mostly of proteins and electrolytes.2. A variety of glands produce it.
More than 70% of saliva is created by the submandibular glands (a fancy way of saying that these glands are located “below the jaw”). The other glands responsible for saliva production are the sublingual (below the tongue) and parotid glands. The uvula also contributes, as do about 600 other glands! All that busy work must mean saliva is important, right?3. Its output varies.
You might be surprised to know that the amount of saliva you produce in a given day varies depending on multiple factors, which include anything from your mood or stress level, to being left in the dark. For instance, did you know that if you were inside a dark room with no windows, your saliva production would drop nearly 40%? Afraid of the dark? That “dry-mouth” sensation you experience when the lights go out is caused by more than just a feeling of fear…it’s biological.4. Your DNA and health are readable through spit.
That’s right—just a simple swab of the inside of your mouth can determine your genetic sequence. Most of this comes from skin cells inside your cheek, but your saliva also contains clues. You can detect elevated cortisol (think ‘stress response’) from saliva. Plus, there are multiple proteins in saliva that may distinguish healthy persons from those with a higher risk of cancer or other diseases. Need to take a simple drug or HIV test? Your saliva reveals all.5. Pregnancy elevates the spit factor.
Women who are pregnant regularly report more “drool” than usual, and it’s not just in their minds! Hormones are a decided factor in saliva output.6. One in five adults will experience chronic dry mouth in his/her life.
It’s easy to take saliva for granted until you have a hard time producing it. Sure, everyone can feel the sensation of a dry mouth—usually out of nervousness or as a side effect from medications or illness. But chronic dry mouth is something else. Those who experience a dry mouth long term also suffer from halitosis (bad breath that won’t go away), tooth decay, and other adverse health effects. Sometimes, simply changing out prescription meds helps. Other times, though, a more serious treatment is needed.7. Constant saliva flow builds enamel—which strengthens teeth.
It stands to reason that if the absence of saliva is bad for teeth and oral health generally, the presence of it is good for teeth. Over time, all that bathing of tooth enamel can make it tougher, which is good news, indeed.8. Saliva contains antioxidants.
We hear much about antioxidants these days. If a food is high in antioxidants, we automatically know it’s better for our cellular health. But the antioxidants in healthy saliva also work hard to repair cell damage and maintain a great balance to our microbial system. If you have a healthy immune system, thank your saliva.9. Parental saliva can help prevent children’s allergies.
If you’ve ever picked up your baby’s pacifier and licked it clean after it fell on the floor, you’re not alone. Aside from getting rid of a little dirt, you’re also passing on your own antibodies to your child. This fact appears to be borne out of actual scientific studies in Sweden. So, if you want to help guard against allergies, eczema, or other common illnesses, you may be on to something the next time you use your own spit to wipe off a dirty pacifier.10. Saliva may just predict your personality.
Consider yourself an introvert? Get ready for enamel-strengthening boosts to your saliva! That’s right; scientists are finding interesting data on introverts vs. extroverts. The former exhibit a rise in their reticular activating system, or RAS—which produces more saliva than extroverts, who don’t have the same response. It turns out there may be something positive that comes from being shy.11. Adequate saliva means better smooching.
We’ve already talked about dry mouth as a companion to bad breath—which can be decidedly off-putting in the romance department. Whether you like wet, sloppy kisses or not, saliva is part of what makes a kiss work! And—while we’re on the subject:12. Saliva production drops noticeably after rejection.
If your relationship is one in which rejection or stress plays a big role, the elevated cortisol from all that stress cause a fight-or-flight response that—at least at first—elevates saliva production. But afterward, the levels drop off, causing risks to the immune system, oral health, and general well-being.
The next time your mouth waters—be grateful. Your amazing body is doing just what it’s supposed to—and your teeth are just lucky beneficiaries.
Spit. It’s good for you!