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Saliva in an infant

Saliva ( Latin saliva ; outdated drool , drool or Sabbel ; in everyday language mostly spit ) is the secretion of the salivary glands . This body fluid is produced by animals and also by the human organism . The production sites for saliva are located in the oral cavity . The term “saliva” is no longer used for the secretion of the pancreas , so that it is practically always the saliva in the mouth. The flow of saliva is called salivation in medical terminology .


Saliva is made in the mouth by the small salivary glands , which are located in the lining of the mouth, and the large salivary glands

educated. Depending on the secreting gland, the saliva formed there is more watery and thin ("serous") or more slimy and viscous ( mucous ). A mixture of these different types of saliva is found in the oral cavity . The adult person secretes a total of around 0.6 to 1.5 liters of saliva per day, and saliva is constantly secreted even without food. This "basal secretion" is about half a liter per day.

Composition of human saliva

Saliva consists of about 99.5% water and contains about 0.5% dissolved components.

Among these are: Mucins ( glycoproteins ), various proteins and in humans and some animals also a digestive enzyme (diastatic ferment), the α-amylase ptyalin. Among the proteins, a strong analgesic opiorphin has been demonstrated, which presumably inhibits the breakdown of endogenous opiates that are involved in pain perception. Other substances are components of the blood groups and antibodies , such as B. the immunoglobulin A (IgA) as well as calcium ions, potassium , sodium and chloride . Traces of fluoride and rhodanide are important for maintaining tooth enamel.

The pH is Ruhesekretion 6.5 to 6.9, after stimulation it rises to about 7.0 to 7.2, since by the faster discharge of the saliva is less time, from the first plasmaisotonen saliva sodium ions reabsorb.


The saliva of the human mouth first moistens the oral cavity, which makes swallowing , speaking and tasting possible and also influences smelling. In addition, the saliva has an antibacterial effect due to the substances it contains, such as lysozyme , immunoglobulin A , lactoferrin and histatin . Histatin also promotes wound healing.

The saliva dissolves the soluble substances in the food, mixes with the dry food to form a moist pulp (chyme) and thus makes it suitable for swallowing and digestion of the stomach; Finally, it initiates the digestion of the carbohydrates through its ptyalin content . This function of the saliva is not always physiological, however, as ptyalin hardly has time to develop its effect until it is deactivated again in the acidic stomach (inactivation at pH <4).

The haptocorrins contained in the saliva , together with the intrinsic factor of the stomach, enable the absorption of vitamin B12 .

But saliva is also important for keeping teeth healthy . With reduced saliva production (e.g. due to radiation), a considerable increase in the risk of caries can be observed. The best- known example is the nursing bottle syndrome in small children (bottle caries or early childhood caries ), which occurs when small children are given sweetened tea or porridge, especially at night when saliva production is reduced.

The widespread use of saliva for provisional wound cleaning and disinfection is only harmless if you are self-sufficient because of the oral flora that is also contained in the saliva . The latter is individually adjusted to one's own eating habits and can lead to life-threatening sepsis in other people . When cleaning or treating wounds with one's own saliva, the enzymes contained in them also have an influence on healing and pain processing (see above: composition, analgesic opiorphin ).

In ruminants , the buffer function of saliva (through HCO 3 - and phosphates ) plays a decisive role in buffering the fatty acids produced by fermentation in the rumen to a neutral level. With insufficient rumination, the rumen contents become acidic ( rumen acidosis ) and its walls become permeable to toxins.

Disorders of the amount of saliva

A temporarily increased flow of saliva ( hypersalivation ) is usually caused by the conditioned reflex (reflective path) by certain external influences. This reflex path is a chronologically coordinated sequence of stimulations of various nerves and their receptors:

  • Taste: Irritation of the taste buds from flavors introduced into the oral cavity
  • Palpation: irritation of the tactile nerves of the oral cavity
  • Smell: irritation of the olfactory nerves in the nasal cavities
  • Vision: irritation of the optic nerves in the eye sockets
  • Irritation of the gastrointestinal nerves in the digestive tract

Likewise, great anger or other excitement can lead to increased saliva secretion.

Dry mouth ( xerostomia ) can be illness-related (e.g. as a symptom in Sjögren's syndrome ) or therapy -related (e.g. as a result of radiation therapy ) or behavior-related (e.g. not drinking enough or after taking certain medications and intoxicating drugs) or age-related occur. In addition to the direct (unpleasant) consequences, dental health usually suffers (a frequent consequence is dental caries ) in the absence of the protective substances accompanying normal salivation. Saliva substitutes can be mixed by pharmacists according to a prescription in the NRF .


With the help of microRNAs from saliva, clues about the severity of a concussion can be obtained , as researchers working with Steven Hicks from Pennsylvania State University have found. Salivary microRNA is an easily measurable, physiologically relevant and accurate potential biomarker for a traumatic brain injury.

Sociological Aspects

Most people find saliva gross as soon as it leaves their mouth.

Spitting on a person is a great humiliation. That is why it is used in many sports such as B. in football punished as unsporting behavior. It is also used as a technique of degrading BDSM play by dominants.

A fine stream of saliva spurts out of the mouth in an uncontrolled manner when yawning or opening the mouth wide. Some people can do this on purpose.


Numerous contagious pathogens can be transmitted with saliva . Typical cases are rabies and influenza . Spitting in public, especially in means of transport, buildings or in squares, has therefore already been made a criminal offense in some countries. A spitting ban due to the occurrence of swine flu in football has not yet prevailed.

Legal Aspects

Spitting in public is generally not prohibited by law in Germany. Spitting at or breathing heavily on a person constitutes a physical offense according to § 185 StGB . The question of spitting on objects has not been conclusively clarified legally.

In Austria, spitting in the face of a person in public, in this specific case at the counter of a city café, does not constitute a violation of decency according to Section 2 (1) Styrian State Security Act (StLSG), but a judicial offense (Section 4, criminal acts against honor, §§ 111 ff StGB). In particular, the offense of insult according to Section 115 in conjunction with Section 117 StGB would be realized.

A common practice for many Chinese people is to spit on the floor in public. It is also common in India. In Hong Kong, on the other hand, spitting in public is prohibited.

Use in diving and swimming

Swimming goggles and diving masks usually fog up after a while, because the moist air in them is warmed up by the body temperature and condenses with the cooler water due to the temperature difference. Some swimmers and divers moisten the inside of the glasses with saliva because the mucins they contain form a slimy film that absorbs the condensate so that a clear view is maintained.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: saliva  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Spit  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Saliva  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikiquote: Saliva  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert F. Schmidt, Florian Lang, Gerhard Thews (ed.): Physiology of humans with pathophysiology . 29th edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-540-21882-3 , pp. 847 .
  2. A. Wisner, E. Dufour et al. a .: Human Opiorphin, a natural antinociceptive modulator of opioid-dependent pathways. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 103, 2006, p. 17979, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.0605865103 .
  3. ^ A b Robert F. Schmidt, Florian Lang, Gerhard Thews (eds.): Physiology of humans with pathophysiology . 29th edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-540-21882-3 , pp. 848 .
  4. The saliva. Dental Health Working Group
  5. Information on oral and dental care. Cancer information service of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg. July 15, 2010. Retrieved September 3, 2014
  6. Patient information. (PDF) German Medical Association
  7. Sabine Schellerer: A life without spit. In: Pharmaceutical newspaper. Retrieved February 26, 2017 .
  8. ^ Jeremiah J. Johnson, Andrea C. Loeffert, Jennifer Stokes, Robert P. Olympia, Harry Bramley, Steven D. Hicks: Association of Salivary MicroRNA Changes With Prolonged Concussion Symptoms. In: Journal of the American Medical Association - Pediatrics, November 20, 2017, doi : 10.1001 / jamapediatrics.2017.3884 .
  9. Angelika Sylvia Friedl: "As soon as she leaves her mouth, she is disgusting" . In: The daily newspaper: taz . July 20, 2019, ISSN  0931-9085 , p. 25 ePaper, Alle, Berlin 29 Nord ( [accessed on August 10, 2019]).
  10. Angelika Sylvia Friedl: Snot in public: What do you spit? In: The daily newspaper: taz . July 23, 2019, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed August 10, 2019]).
  11. Article. In:
  12. ^ BGHSt judgment of the 4th Criminal Senate of March 5, 2009, Az. 4 StR 594/08
  13. Legal information system. Federal Chancellery of Austria
  14. Where burping and spitting are good forms. In: The world
  15. Hong Kong: Spitting prohibited . In: Spiegel Online , June 11, 2002
  16. Right ?: Clarifying spit . In: ZEIT ONLINE . ( [accessed on September 6, 2018]).