Saliva has one of the most difficult roles to perform in the body. It must facilitate the taste and detection of foods nutritious to the body but also defend the mucosa from infection by the ever-present microbiota present in the mouth. It achieves these roles by having a complex composition and versatile physical properties. The protein and ion components make a solution that is 99% water into a viscoelastic solution capable of many roles, such as acting as a lubricant and an antimicrobial, preventing the dissolution of teeth, aiding digestion, and facilitating taste. This review describes the neural regulation of salivary secretion in terms of fluid, protein, and ion secretion. It then describes some of the components and physical properties of saliva and attempts to relate them to the functions that saliva must perform.
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