In spite of the coexistence of saliva and taste in the oral cavity, an understanding of their interactions is still incomplete. Saliva has modulating effects on sour, salt, and the monosodium-glutamate-induced savory or umami taste. It has a diminishing effect on sour taste as a result of the buffering by salivary bicarbonate. It probably also contributes to the umami taste with endogenous salivary glutamate levels. Salt taste is detected only when above salivary sodium-chloride concentrations; thus saliva influences salt taste threshold levels. It also provides the ionic environment for taste cells, probably critical in signal transduction. Salivary flow rate and composition are influenced by the type of taste stimuli. In general, sour taste, elicited by citric acid or sour food, induces the highest flow rate and Na+ concentrations, while salt gives rise to high protein and Ca2+ concentrations. Stimulation with the four basic taste modalities (sour, sweet, salty, and bitter), however, does not increase the relative proportion of any of the salivary proteins. This review examines the literature on the interactions of saliva with taste, and the effect of taste on salivary composition. The possible role of the Ebner's salivary glands and the role of saliva as a chemical cue are also discussed.
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