Saliva or spit has many important functions. It moisturizes our mouth and our food to make chewing and swallowing easier. It also does a lot of our dental work for usﾗit rinses sugar bacteria and other harmful substances out of our mouths. Salivary amylase an enzyme found in saliva triggers the digestion of starches. Saliva is produced in the salivary glands. A typical person's salivary glands produce roughly one and a half litres of saliva a day. Saliva is composed of 99% water but contains crucial minerals enzymes and antibodies. These antibodies help prevent infections of the mouth and throat.
Saliva is produced in the three major salivary glands. These glands occur in pairs with on one of each on either side of the face. The parotid glands are located in front of the ears the sublingual glands are located under the tongue and the submandibular glands are located towards the back of the mandible or lower jaw. Meanwhile minor saliva glands sit throughout the lips inner cheeks and mouth and throat linings.
Malfunctioning salivary glands can lead to xerostomia or chronic dry mouth. Medication cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy and and nerve damage can all lead to this condition. Autoimmune disorders such as HIV/AIDs and Sjorgen's disease attack the salivary glands slowing down or stopping saliva production. A dentist may treat xerostomia with medicine or artificial saliva. The patient can control the condition with behaviour modifications such as drinking fluids often and eliminating mouth-drying substances like caffeine alcohol and tobacco.
Salivary gland disease can occur for a number of reasons. Obstruction is a major cause of infection. Stones can obstruct the ducts causing saliva produced during chewing to collect in the glands with no means of expulsion. An abundance of bacteria in the mouth can also cause obstruction. Dehydration too can bring about infection. Other infections include mumps (the swelling of the parotid gland) and secondary infections caused by nearby infected lymph nodes.
Treatment of salivary gland disease depends on the cause. Treatment can include antibiotics increased fluid intake and the use of an instrument to open blocked ducts. In some cases surgery is necessary.