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Oral Dis. 2002 May;8(3):117-29.

Saliva and gastrointestinal functions of taste, mastication, swallowing and digestion.

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  • 1Copenhagen Gerodontological Oral Health Research Centre, Department of Clinical Oral Physiology, Anatomy, Pathology and Medicine, School of Dentistry, Denmark.


Saliva has multiple essential functions in relation to the digestive process taking place in the upper parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This paper reviews the role of human saliva and its compositional elements in relation to the GI functions of taste, mastication, bolus formation, enzymatic digestion, and swallowing. The indirect function of saliva in the digestive process that includes maintenance of an intact dentition and mucosa is also reviewed. Finally, pathophysiological considerations of salivary dysfunction in relation to some GI functions are considered.

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