Saliva is a watery mucus produced by glands in the oral cavity (aka the salivary glands of the mouth). Saliva contains similar components as snot, including mucin proteins, as well as digestive enzymes.
Why? The enzymes in saliva start digesting the food you eat as you chew it (example, amylase and starches). The mouth is the first stop in the digestive tract that includes the stomach and intestines and ends with the anus. Saliva does a number of important tasks you probably never knew about, or maybe you didn't care, it's okay, saliva doesn't have feelings:
- This early digestion allows the food to slide down the esophagus into the stomach without getting stuck (well, most of the time any way)
- It protects the thin lining of the mouth from damage while chewing
- Wets dry food to allow it to break up and be tasted by solubilizing the taste molecules (without saliva you wouldn't taste some foods!)
- Helps rinse the teeth (but you still have to brush!)
Related terms: drool, drivel, spit
Gross Fact: the average mouth secretes 1 to 2 liters of saliva a day
How is saliva secreted? The glands have ducts that open into the mouth. Sometimes they can get clogged, causing them to swell and get sore. Sometimes they can get infected, causing a bad taste in the mouth. And sometimes they can get stimulated at inopportune times and squirt your dentist in the face.