Does saliva cleanse the mouth? The truth about your spit!

Saliva is a transparent liquid secreted by the salivary glands in our mouth. It plays a crucial role in protecting our oral health. Saliva cleanses, moistens, and lubricates the mouth, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria, and helps in the digestion of food. But, does saliva cleanse the mouth? Let’s find out the truth about your spit!

The Composition of Saliva

Saliva contains different substances that help in keeping our oral health in good condition. The composition of saliva is:

Component Concentration
Water 99.5%
Electrolytes Sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, and chloride ions
Proteins Enzymes, mucins, and antibodies
Other molecules Glucose, urea, creatinine, and hormones

These components of saliva work together to maintain the balance of the mouth’s ecosystem, which keeps the oral cavity healthy.

How Saliva Cleanses the Mouth?

Removal of Debris and Food Particles

Saliva flushes away the debris and food particles that stick to the teeth and gums, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. This cleansing action of saliva helps to maintain the oral hygiene of the mouth.

Neutralization of Acids

Oral bacteria produce acids that contribute to the demineralization of the enamel, the outer layer of the teeth. Saliva neutralizes these acids and helps to maintain the pH balance of the mouth. The pH balance is critical because acidic conditions promote the growth of bacteria that can cause dental problems.

Prevention of Bacterial Growth

Saliva contains antibacterial molecules like lysozyme, lactoferrin, and peroxidase that can kill the bacteria, prevent their growth, and limit the formation of plaque that can cause gum disease and cavities.

Regulation of Oral Microbiota

Oral microbiota refers to the different types of microbes that live in our mouth. Saliva regulates the oral microbiota by maintaining the balance of different species of bacteria. This balance keeps the mouth healthy by preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and promoting the growth of beneficial ones.

Factors that Affect Saliva’s Cleansing Action

Saliva Production

Saliva production can vary throughout the day, depending on age, medication, hormone levels, and other factors. When the body produces less saliva, its cleansing action is reduced, which can lead to oral health problems.

Oral Hygiene Habits

Oral hygiene habits like brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash can help to remove the food particles and bacteria that stick to the teeth and gums. These practices can enhance the cleansing action of saliva, contributing to optimal oral health.

Saliva Quality

The quality of saliva also affects its cleansing action. For example, people with dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, have reduced saliva production, which affects the cleansing action of saliva. Saliva’s cleansing action is also reduced by chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.


So, does saliva cleanse the mouth? The answer is a resounding yes! Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health, protecting against tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath. Maintaining optimal levels of saliva production and quality, along with good oral hygiene habits, are essential to maintaining optimal oral health.

Common Questions about Saliva Cleansing the Mouth

  • Q. Why does saliva feel slimy?
    A. Saliva feels slimy due to the presence of mucins, which are proteins that lubricate the mouth and help in swallowing.
  • Q. Does chewing gum increase saliva production?
    A. Yes. Chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands and increases saliva production, which can help in cleansing the mouth.
  • Q. Can drinking water replace saliva?
    A. No. Drinking water can provide temporary relief to dry mouth, but it cannot replace the cleansing action of saliva.
  • Q. Can saliva help in preventing cavities?
    A. Yes. Saliva neutralizes acids produced by bacteria, which can prevent the formation of cavities.
  • Q. What causes dry mouth?
    A. Dry mouth can be caused by medication, dehydration, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, autoimmune disorders, and other factors.


Bickley, L. S., & Szilagyi, P. G. (Eds.). (2017). Bates’ guide to physical examination and history-taking. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Fejerskov, O., Kidd, E., & Nyvad, B. (Eds.). (2015). Dental caries: the disease and its clinical management. John Wiley & Sons.

Kumar, V., Abbas, A. K., & Aster, J. C. (Eds.). (2020). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease. Elsevier.

Ryan, J. T. (2012). Saliva: An overview. In Reviews of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology (Vol. 163, pp. 1-18). Springer.

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