The Function and Production of Saliva

Saliva is an important substance that moistens our food and aids in digestion but have you ever wondered where saliva is created?

The human body has three main salivary glands. The largest is in the back of the mouth and is called the Parotid Gland. Moving closer to the mouth’s opening, the next of the three main salivary glands is the Submandibular Gland and as you can guess, this gland is below the mandible or jaw. Lastly, we have the Sublingual glands which is actually a pair of glands that reside underneath the tongue.

The purpose of these glands is to create saliva or “spit” to moisten our food and aid in digestion. The human body, the wonderfully intelligent machine that it is, produces increases levels of saliva when it recognizes that food is about to be eaten. Pavlov’s famous salivating dog experiment is a great example of how this works. When food is on it’s way, saliva production will increase as your body prepares for digestion.

Once saliva has been produced it is carried through a duct system into the mouth. These ducts all have specific names, depending on their location in the mouth. In some cases they can become blocked through the formation of what dentists and doctors call “saliva stones.” These stones are calcium build-ups and are usually the result of infection or dehydration. They can be painful and may require medical attention through surgery or massage.

Salivary glands play an important role in our digestive process. The next time you’re about to eat, take a second to notice the amount of saliva that has been produced in your mouth.