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What Makes You Drool When You Smell, See Or Think Of Food

08 Dec , 2020

The thought of a delicious meal can get the saliva flowing. This article here explains the chemical mechanisms behind drooling

Your mouth starts to water on the thought of your favourite pizza or dessert. But why does this occur? What stimulates this reaction? Is it the mere thought of sinking your teeth into your favourite dish, that makes your mouth fill with saliva, or is it something more chemical?

There is a relevant reasoning behind why food makes us salivate.

Our brains subconsciously react to the sight, smell and even the thought of food and thus, resulting in increased secretion of saliva.

Importance of saliva

First, we need to understand the importance of saliva. Our bodies produce almost 1.5 litres of spit in a day. That’s a lot, why do we need so much? Because:

  • It keeps our teeth and mouth hygienic and healthy
  • It helps us chew and taste food
  • It starts the digestion process

Undoubtedly, the latter two reasons clearly state why we salivate. Since saliva helps us taste and chew food, it’s but natural that when we are hungry or not at the mere sight, smell of thought of food, our bodies react.

So how does all this contribute to the why of salivating? – The science behind salivating

It’s simple. The nerves which control the production of saliva are part of a reflex system. Smell, taste and sight activate them and they fire without conscious thought.

A signal is sent to the medulla oblongata, where the primary salivary centres lie when food is seen, smelt of even thought about. At this point, neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and acetylcholine are released by the brain which triggers nerve signals, notifying the glands to produce saliva.

Upper teeth, on the floor of the mouth and under the tongue are where major salivary glands are found. Inner cheeks, lips and the linings of mouth and throat are where minor glands are located.

So this is the science behind it. Apart from science, there is a bit of psychology involved too.

What’s the psychology behind it

The other explanation is that this is a conditioned reflex. As children, certain things are associated with certain pleasures. Same goes for food – a few foods correlate with few pleasures. Example: anything that is round and brown in colour can resemble a chocolate cake and everyone knows that a chocolate cake is delicious. This is a reflex that we learn. We react almost instantly when we see shapes, colours etc. that resemble food, this heightens even more if we actually see or smell the food.

Here is the drool-worthy explanation behind salivating after seeing, thinking or even smelling food.

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