5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the Salivary Glands

Things You Probably Didn't Know about the Salivary GlandsIf you want to keep your body and teeth healthy, you will want to know these 5 things about the salivary glands.

Your saliva plays a crucial role in a wide variety of bodily functions. It helps you chew and swallow food, aids in digestion, protects your teeth, and keeps your mouth lubricated to make speaking much easier.

If you’ve ever wondered how the mouth produces saliva, you’ve got your salivary glands to thank for that. Without them, normal functions such as eating and speaking will prove to be difficult, perhaps even painful.

I’m writing about this topic because I am a bestselling wellness author.

I love sharing insights and strategies to help people develop healthier habits.

In this short guide, we’ll take a closer look at these often-overlooked heroes of your oral health. We’ll explore the different essential roles the salivary glands play as well as some interesting facts about them, providing you with a better understanding of their significance in maintaining your overall well-being.

1. We have three major salivary glands and almost a thousand minor ones

Yes, you’ve read that right—a thousand! But first, let’s talk about the three main salivary glands: the sublingual glands, submandibular glands, and the parotid glands. These three produce roughly around 90 percent of all your saliva. Meanwhile, the remaining 10 percent is contributed by around 750 to 1000 minor salivary glands, which can be found in various locations in your mouth. Half of them are on the roof of your mouth, while some are spread on your lips, tongue, cheeks, and even sinuses.

However, there are cases when salivary glands can be afflicted with diseases, thus making it difficult for them to produce saliva. One such disease would be parotid gland tumors, which lead to swelling and can at times even be malignant. If you ever start feeling symptoms of swelling between your ear and jaw, where the parotid glands are located, then consult a doctor right away.

In extreme cases, a parotidectomy might be necessary to completely eliminate parotid gland tumors. Do keep in mind that such operations should only be entrusted to licensed head and neck surgeons who have ample expertise to safely carry out the procedure.

2. Salivary glands are vital for our dental health

The most common function of saliva that we know of is that it helps break down the food we eat to make it easily digestible. But did you know your saliva also keeps your teeth and gums healthy? Acids that come from the food you eat can actually break down the enamel of your teeth. It is your saliva that helps dilute these acids to protect your teeth as well as create a layer around it to prevent further damage.

During times when the inside of your mouth is injured, your salivary glands can also aid in healing the wound faster. Saliva contains proteins that mitigate bacterial growth, thus reducing the risk of microbial infections. The humid environment it creates is also ideal to promote wound healing.

3. You produce enough saliva in your lifetime to fill two swimming pools

An adult is estimated to produce one to two liters of saliva per day. In one’s average lifetime, that amounts to around 23,000 liters of saliva, which would be enough to fill two swimming pools. Definitely not a pool you’d like to take a dip in though, no doubt.

There are also various external factors that contribute to the increased production of saliva. For instance, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy can stimulate your salivary glands to produce more saliva. Hence, this is a recommended solution to alleviate discomfort from dry mouth. In addition, your salivary glands are also more active during the day and slow down considerably come nighttime.

4. Saliva can greatly influence the taste of your food.

In addition to moistening and breaking down the food you eat, the saliva constantly produced by your salivary glands also enables you to actually taste what you’re eating. The interaction between your saliva and the food is actually what kick-starts your taste buds to start interpreting what exactly it is that you’re tasting at the moment.

Saliva is crucial in transferring information from your mouth to your brain, allowing you to fully appreciate the delicious flavors of the food and beverages that you consume. This is why people suffering from dry mouth may find the food they eat to be bland, in addition to being hard to swallow.

5. You can glean one’s genetic blueprint through their saliva.

A single drop of saliva can be a means to determine one’s DNA, which, in turn, can illuminate a person’s genetic makeup. Saliva contains cells coming from the inside of your mouth; dig deeper inside them and you can find the chromosomes that are itself made up of DNA. The ease with which to obtain saliva is also a reason why it is a common sample used for DNA analysis.

Your salivary glands are one of those parts of your body that perhaps barely even cross your mind. Despite this being the case, they continuously do their jobs to ensure day-to-day functions such as eating, digesting, and even healthy maintenance of oral health are possible. Here’s to hoping the facts listed above were able to pique your interest in salivary glands and thus feel more responsible in keeping them healthy.

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