JUN 17, 2016 3:16 PM PDT

The Science of Saliva

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Spit, saliva, drool - no matter what you call it, if it's not yours, it will more than likely gross you out. Of course, the exception may be when you're snogging an admirer. But there's a lot going on behind this shunned and overlooked bodily liquid.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate saliva is to know what happens when we don't have enough of it in the case of dry mouth, or cottonmouth. On the outside, insufficient saliva makes our lips feel tight and cracked. This can even spur on sores around the corners of the mouth. On the inside, you may have difficulty swallowing or even talking, as your tongue is feels rough and your throat parched. It's difficult to chew and actually consume food, as there's no liquid or enzyme to help break down the food molecules. Your teeth also suffer, as the lack of saliva increases acids and bacteria that cause cavities and bad breath.

So, next time you think spit is gross, remember all the things it does in your body and how uncomfortable life would be without it!
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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