Saliva has become a central research issue in oral physiology and pathology. Over the evolution, the oral cavity has evolved the antioxidants uric acid, ascorbate reduced glutathione, plasma-derived albumin and antioxidants polyphenols from nutrients that are delivered to the oral cavity. However, blood cells extravasated from injured capillaries in gingival pathologies, or following tooth brushing and use of tooth picks, may attenuate the toxic activities of H2O2 generated by oral streptococci and by oxidants generated by activated phagocytes. Employing a highly sensitive luminol-dependent chemiluminescence, the DPPH radical and XTT assays to quantify oxidant-scavenging abilities (OSA), we show that saliva can strongly decompose both oxygen and nitrogen species. However, lipophilic antioxidant polyphenols in plants, which are poorly soluble in water and therefore not fully available as effective antioxidants, can nevertheless be solubilized either by small amounts of ethanol, whole saliva or also by salivary albumin and mucin. Plant-derived polyphenols can also act in collaboration with whole saliva, human red blood cells, platelets, and also with catalase-positive microorganisms to decompose reactive oxygen species (ROS). Furthermore, polyphenols from nutrient can avidly adhere to mucosal surfaces, are retained there for long periods and may function as a “slow- release devises” capable of affecting the redox status in the oral cavity. The OSA of saliva is due to the sum result of low molecular weight antioxidants, albumin, polyphenols from nutrients, blood elements and microbial antioxidants. Taken together, saliva and its antioxidants are considered regulators of the redox status in the oral cavity under physiological and pathological conditions.
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