You may not realize just how powerful your saliva is. In fact, you might think it’s a little gross, right? Most people don’t talk about it, and we cringe if we see someone drool or spit.
Saliva, however, is really cool and an essential part of not just your oral health, but also your overall health. Here are six awesome facts about that stuff in your mouth:
1. It’s not just water
Saliva doesn’t really have a taste, and it is actually almost 99 percent water. However, it also has minerals, vitamins, hormones, proteins and other substances. It will also contain traces of anything you put in your mouth, like toothpaste and food.
2. It starts the digestion process
Your body may do the brunt of the work further down, but the saliva in your mouth actually starts digestion. The enzymes in your saliva help to break down fats and starches in your food. It also provides lubrication necessary to swallow food. Imagine eating saltines without saliva! Impossible.
3. Enough to fill a 2-liter
Your saliva glands will produce as much as 2 liters of saliva a day. They have to! Saliva plays a vital role in keeping harmful bacteria away from your teeth and gums. Bet you won’t look at that bottle of soda the same ever again.
4. A telltale sign of your age
Over time, the DNA that is in your saliva can actually change. DNA undergoes methylation as we age, which means that certain genes are activated and others are turned off. Diet and other environmental factors can contribute to this process. Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles found that by focusing on just two genes in saliva that tend to be affected by this change, they could guess the age of the person to within five years.
5. A natural painkiller
There is a substance known as opiorphin in your saliva. This is a painkiller that harnesses six times the power of morphine. How? It protects chemicals that are responsible for preventing your brain from receiving signals of pain. If those chemicals start to break down, those signals reach the brain and alert you that you are in pain.
6. The pros and cons of parent saliva
A baby loses her pacifier on the ground. A mother picks it up and, instead of rinsing it in the sink, puts in her mouth to clean it and then hands it back to baby. There are two sides to this story: the first comes from the dental community, which warns that this paper writers can transfer harmful bacteria to the child’s mouth and lead to tooth decay in baby teeth. The other side is comes from several studies that suggest that doing this could almost inoculate the child against allergies. The safest bet? Rinse the paci under water or sanitize it according to directions.