during chewing

amylase. This enzyme splits starch and glycogen molecules into disaccharides—the first step in the chemical digestion of carbohydrates. Mucous cells secrete a thick liquid called mucus, which binds food particles and acts as a lubricant during swallowing.

Like other digestive structures, the salivary glands are innervated by branches of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves. Impulses arriving on sympathetic fibers stimulate the gland cells to secrete a small quantity of viscous saliva. Parasympathetic impulses, on the other hand, elicit the secretion of a large volume of watery saliva. Such parasympathetic impulses are activated reflexly when a person sees, smells, tastes, or even thinks about pleasant foods. Conversely, if food looks, smells, or tastes unpleasant, parasympathetic activity is inhibited, so less saliva is produced, and swallowing may become difficult.

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