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What are your salivary glands for?

[Medical News Today] Your salivary glands produce saliva in your mouth. Saliva helps you chew, swallow, digest your food and helps keep your mouth clean.

You have hundreds of small and 3 large salivary glands.

[Sourced] Below are the three types major salivary glands:

  1. Parotid glands: are the largest salivary glands and are located near your ears. You have one parotid gland on each side of your face.

  2. Sublingual glands: are below the tongue. Instead of having one main duct, these glands contain a series of short ducts and project saliva directly onto the floor of a your mouth.

  3. Submandibular glands: are the second largest salivary glands are below your jaw.

[Sourced] These 3 major salivary glands produce around 92–95% of your saliva. Your smaller glands produce the rest.

You have about 600–1,000 smaller salivary glands. These smaller gland are all over your mouth, but mostly in your lips, lining of the cheeks, tongue and palate.

So, What's so special about saliva?

Saliva helps you chew and swallow food by making it moist. Saliva also helps you speak by lubricating your mouth.

Your saliva contains enzymes that help you digest certain food substances.

[Sourced] Your saliva contains enzymes like amylase, which helps break down starches into sugars. This makes it easier for your body to absorb the starches. [Sourced] The enzyme lipase helps break down triglycerides, which are a type of dietary fat, into glycerol and free fatty acids. This makes it easier for your body to absorb these fats.

[Sourced] Your saliva also contains compounds with antimicrobial properties that help protect your body from infection, such as:

  • Lysozymes, which are a type of enzyme

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Lactoferrin, which is a type of protein

These compounds kill germs and help keep the mouth clean. Disruptions in saliva secretion can increase a person’s risk of developing certain conditions, such as:

  • Tooth decay

  • Gum disease

  • Candidiasis, or yeast infections

  • Respiratory tract infections

In conclusion: The salivary glands produce saliva and secrete it into the mouth. Saliva helps a person chew and swallow their food. It also lubricates surfaces in the mouth to help facilitate speech. Saliva contains enzymes that help a person digest certain substances, such as starches and fats, in their food. It can also help protect the body against infection.

There are three pairs of major salivary glands and hundreds of minor salivary glands. The main salivary glands are the parotid glands, the submandibular glands, and the sublingual glands. Conditions that affect the salivary glands include salivary gland stones, infections, cancer, mumps, and Sjögren’s syndrome. People should contact a healthcare professional if they think they are experiencing any problems with their salivary glands.

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