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Daily salivary output
There is much debate about the amount of saliva that is produced in a healthy person per day; estimates range from 0.75 to 1.5 liters per day while it is generally accepted that during sleep the amount drops to almost zero. In humans, the sub-mandibular gland contributes around 70-75% of secretion, while the parotid gland secretes about 20-25 % and small amounts are secreted from the other salivary glands.
The digestive functions of saliva include moistening food and helping to create a food bolus, so it can be swallowed easily. Saliva contains the enzyme amylase that breaks some cooked starch down into sugar. Thus, digestion of food begins in the mouth. Salivary glands also secrete salivary lipase (a more potent form of lipase) to start fat digestion. Lipase has great role in fat digestion in new-born as their pancreatic lipase will develop later. It also has a protective function for the teeth to prevent bacteria build-up and to help wash away food particles.
- See also: Wound licking
A common belief is that saliva contained in the mouth has natural disinfectants, which leads people to believe it is beneficial to "lick their wounds". Researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville have discovered a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) in the saliva of mice. Wounds doused with NGF healed twice as fast as untreated and unlicked wounds; therefore, saliva can help to heal wounds in some species. NGF has not been found in human saliva; however, researchers find human saliva contains such antibacterial agents as secretory IgA, lactoferrin, lysosyme and peroxidase. It has not been shown that human licking of wounds disinfects them, but licking is likely to help clean the wound by removing larger contaminants such as dirt and may help to directly remove infective bodies by brushing them away. Therefore, licking would be a way of wiping off pathogens, useful if clean water is not available to the animal or person.
The mouth of animals is the habitat of many bacteria, some pathogenic. Some diseases, such as herpes, can be transmitted through the mouth. Animal (including human) bites are routinely treated with systemic antibiotics because of the risk of septicemia.
Saliva secretes gustin hormone which is thought to play a role in the development of taste buds.
The saliva stimulated by sympathetic innervation is thicker, and saliva stimulated parasympathetically is more watery.
Parasympathetic stimulation leads to acetylcholine (ACh) release onto the salivary acinar cells. ACh binds to muscarinic receptors and causes an increased intracellular calcium ion concentration (through the IP3/DAG second messenger system). Increased calcium causes vesicles within the cells to fuse with the apical cell membrane leading to secretion formation. ACh also causes the salivary gland to release kallikrein, an enzyme that converts kininogen to lysyl-bradykinin. Lysyl-bradykinin acts upons blood vessels and capillaries of the salivary gland to generate vasodilation and increased capillary permeability respectively. The resulting increased blood flow to the acinar allows production of more saliva. Lastly, both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous stimulation can lead to myoepitheilium contraction which causes the expulsion of secretions from the secretory acinus into the ducts and eventually to the oral cavity.
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