Role of Salivary Glands in Digestion

The role of the

salivary glands

is to secrete saliva which in turn keeps both the mouth and the digestive system wet. Saliva is a fluid that consists of mucous, water, electrolytes and enzymes. Along with saliva, these glands also secrete amylase that plays an important role in the decomposing of maltose and starch.

Role of Salivary Glands in Digestion:

Let us discuss what saliva does in order to help the process of digestion.

Lubricating and Binding:

The primary role of the saliva is to push the chewed food into the esophagus. This is done by the mucous that is present in the saliva. Saliva also takes care that the lining of the epithelial or the mucosa is not damaged when the food is pushed down into the esophagus. This is done by the saliva coating on the esophagus.


In order to taste the food we eat, it has to first become soluble. This is taken care of by the saliva.

Digestion of Starch:

We humans among mammals are capable of producing alpha-amylase (produced by the serous acini cells in the salivary glands) that aids in the breaking down of dietary starch into maltose. It is this compound that begins the digestion process of the food and thus can be considered the primary stage of digestion.

It can thus be understood that digestion starts from the mouth itself with the help of the enzymes secreted by the salivary glands. Saliva does not enter the digestive system as its affect is overtaken by other gastric acids.

Bolus Formation:

As mentioned above, the primary stage of digestion begins in the mouth. After the food is chewed, it mixes with the saliva in the mouth allowing the tongue to shape it into a soft ball called bolus which is pushed into the esophagus. The

salivary glands

along with the teeth and tongue are thus called digestive accessory organs.

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