There are many reasons to maintain good oral health throughout your life. Strong, well-cared for teeth are essential to chewing food. Chewing food properly, in turn, is essential for proper digestion of food. You may be surprised to learn that 40 percent of digestion happens in the mouth from chewing.1 Chewing food is something we all do many times each day, but few of us give it any thought. Most of us chew and swallow far too quickly.
But, there are powerful reasons to let your teeth thoroughly do their job of breaking down your food for easier digestion.
Chewing food is the first step in your digestive process. When you chew, your teeth break down large particles into smaller particles that are digested more easily. The smaller the particles, the more nutrients and energy you receive from your food because your intestines can more easily absorb the nutrients from the food particles as they pass through. If you don’t chew your food thoroughly, large particles remain undigested when they enter your intestines. There, bacteria have to break down the undigested food leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.2
The longer you chew food, the better your saliva can do its job in your mouth. Increased saliva flow helps to cleanse the mouth of bacteria that can cause decay, neutralizes acids in the mouth, enhances the re-mineralization of the tooth enamel, and helps clear the mouth of any food debris that may get caught between teeth.
Saliva also contains digestive enzymes which break down your food, making digestion easier. One of the primary enzymes in saliva is amylase which starts to break down starches in food.3
Another of these enzymes is lingual lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fats.4 Saliva also helps lubricate your food so it is easier on your esophagus.5 If all that isn’t enough, saliva contains lysozyme, which protects you from any harmful bacteria in your food. Finally, thoroughly chewing your food is actually a workout for your teeth, helping to keep them strong!
So how do you chew so that you get all the benefits from your saliva? First, pay conscious attention to how long you chew your food. It may sound simple, but for so many of us, our chewing patterns are rushed, especially if we are hungry. The next tip is to put smaller amounts of food into your mouth. Then, chew your food until it is liquefied or it has lost all of its texture. Swallow completely before taking the next bite of food. Some people slow down their eating by simply putting down their fork or spoon between bites.
Regular dental cleanings and check-ups will go a long way toward keeping your teeth in shape to thoroughly chew those 1,996 pounds (nearly one ton) of food that the average American eats over the course of one year.6
Sedki Dentistry, Commerce MI is a complete family dental clinic that offers services for all dental health concerns. Dr. Sedki and his experienced staff are professional and committed to providing uncompromised care to their patients. Maintaining long term dental health and a beautiful smile is their goal. Call Sedki Dentistry today and get started on a healthy, beautiful smile!
1 Maintaining Good Oral Health in Retirement Can Save Your Life and Your Money, Robin Seaton Jefferson, Forbes.com, 1/21/2017
2, 4, 5 7 Important Reasons to Properly Chew Your Food, Dr. Mercola, www.mercola.com, 7/31/2013
3 Names of the Enzymes in the Mouth & Esophagus, Andrea Becker, www.Sciencing.com, 3/13/2018
6 The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year, Allison Aubrey, www.npr.org,, 12/31/2011