What Does Saliva Do?

Saliva, or “spit,” helps you swallow and digest food. As soon as you start to eat, glands in your mouth begin to secrete saliva, moistening and softening food to make it easier to swallow.

Saliva also contains an enzyme called ptyalin, which digests food the same way that the digestive juices in your stomach do. This enzyme changes some of the starch in food into sugar, giving the stomach a “head start” in digesting the food.

You have three pairs of saliva glands in your mouth, and they each produce a different kind of saliva. The body always knows how much saliva to produce, and what kind. That’s why your saliva glands will produce much more saliva when you eat a dry cracker than when you eat a juicy piece of fruit!

The largest saliva glands in the mouth produce more than 25,000 quarts of saliva in an average lifetime!