Did you know that oral health is strongly connected to your digestive health? It makes sense because the stomach is the next stop for food after your mouth and esophagus. Eating, smiling, talking – consciously or unconsciously, so much of your daily life is influenced by our oral health. And here is one more thought to chew on: your oral health can affect your digestive health as well. Therefore a healthy digestive system is crucial for good oral health.  

According to a US National Library of Medicine study, oral bacteria can quickly transfer to the gut and digestive system. According to the report – oral bacteria spreading through the body is closely associated with several systemic diseases. Your gut is no exception.

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Studies have indicated that oral bacteria can translocate to the gut and change its microbiota and possibly immune defense. In simple terms, good oral health is vital to prevent oral disease and maintain good general health.

So, how do you keep your mouth and stomach healthy? Taking into consideration how you break down food is a great way to initiate the digestive process.

What Is the Digestive System?

Your digestive system is made of a group of organs that convert your food into molecules, like glucose. Glucose is the simple form of food that your body uses so that you can move and grow. The system has two subgroups: the alimentary canal and the accessory organs. 

The esophagus is a muscular tube located in your throat connecting your mouth to your stomach. The esophagus, small and large intestines form part of the alimentary canal. The food you eat passes through the alimentary canal. 

The accessory organs of the digestive system include salivary glands in your mouth, the liver, the pancreas, and the gallbladder. These accessory organs help digestion but do not directly interact with the food.

Why Is Digestion Important for Your Body?

The food you eat is full of nutrients that fuel your body to live, run and stay alive. You have probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes because they contain vitamin A. That milk strengthens your bones because it has calcium, and that chicken is good for the body because it has protein. 

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But without the digestive system, all these substances are of no use. Without digestion, none of those nutrients would matter because your body would not be able to absorb them. During digestion, your body uses your teeth, gums, stomach acids and enzymes, and bacteria in your intestines to break your food into tiny pieces. These small food particles are then absorbed in the bloodstream and are sent to your cells.

The Role of Teeth in the Digestive System

Digestion of the food you eat begins the second you put a piece of food into your mouth. Your salivary glands immediately jump into action at the sheer sight of certain foods the moment they enter your mouth. 

Your saliva glands are critical as they break down foods in your mouth. These glands situated at the sides of your mouth secrete enzymes that help break down fats and starches. Additionally, the saliva lubricates the passage of food down the esophagus to your stomach.

Your teeth also play a significant role in digestion. It is safe to say that it is impossible to tear, grind, and cut food without teeth making digestion more difficult. Experts argue that when we swallow less chewed food, some nutrients and energy remain locked in, thus making it more difficult to enter our bodies. Hence proper chewing is essential to absorb all the nutrients you eat.

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Tooth infection and misalignment can adversely affect chewing and digestion. Misaligned teeth often put bite pressure on one area of the mouth compared to the other. The strain on specific muscles often leads to pain when chewing, and such a problem can persist. A typical example of this is temporomandibular joint disorders, commonly known as TMJ.

So, what steps can you take to keep your teeth healthy as they can aid in digestion? Besides visiting your dentist regularly, there are a few other tips you can follow:

  • Try eating a healthy diet rich in protein, calcium, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day.
  • Speak to your dentist if you are suffering from a dry mouth.

Oral Signs of Digestive System Issues

Experts often warn that the very first signs of any trouble with your digestive system can be seen in the mouth. And, often, your dentist is the first person to make the diagnosis. Dental imbalances and digestive diseases go hand-in-hand. Below is a list of indications of your digestive problems that your dentist looks out for during your routine visits:

  1. Bleeding gums.
  2. Enamel defects.
  3. Oral candida or oral thrush.
  4. Red patches on your gums.

Hence it is safe to say that if you suffer from digestive problems, it might also cause oral problems and vice versa. This is yet another good reason to visit your dentist regularly and have them keep an eye on signs of digestion issues in your mouth.

How Does the Digestive System Work?

So the next question that arises is how does this complex digestive system work? The digestive system starts at your mouth. When you put food in your mouth, your mouth chews the food, and your teeth break the food into smaller pieces.

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The salivary glands under your tongue and on the sides and roof of your mouth all release saliva. This saliva then mixes with your food to make it easier to swallow. The food in your mouth is also mixed with enzymes that start breaking carbohydrates into simple sugars for the body.

When you swallow, the processed food created from chewing and saliva is called a bolus. This bolus slides down your esophagus. In the end, the bolus reaches your stomach. 

In the stomach, gastric juices containing powerful enzymes and acids mix with the bolus to make chyme. Chyme is a semi-fluid paste in the stomach. Muscles working in the gut often keep the food and juices moving continuously during this process.

How Does Your Digestive System Absorb Food?

After completion of the digestion process, muscles in the stomach push the chyme to the first part of your small intestine, called the duodenum. At this stage, digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver and gallbladder all mix together. All these enzymes further help break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your food. 

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The lower parts of your small intestine are called the jejunum and the ileum. In this section, the food is broken down into molecules, and villi present on the small intestine walls absorb these nutrients.

The next stop is the colon which you know as the large intestine. The large intestine removes excess water from the food that your body did not digest. At this stage what is left behind is the stool or feces. The stool makes its way to the lower section of the large intestine. It is stored in the chamber called the rectum. It is stored there until it is released through the anus. Only when this complete process runs smoothly does your body absorb all the healthy nutrients from your food.

Healthy Foods Leads to a Better Digestive System

There are certain foods that can promote better oral and stomach health. According to the American Dental Association or ADA, healthy eating habits and good food choices can help prevent tooth decay. 

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But, what are the good foods you should reach for? The following food items are at the top of a mouth-healthy diet:

Probiotic Yogurt

Most experts call yogurt a “must-have” food for mouth and gut health. Probiotic yogurt is rich in calcium that helps build up tooth enamel and healthy enzymes to aid digestion. In addition, it can eliminate harmful gut bacteria.

Leafy Greens especially Kale Leaves

As you might be aware, kale leaves contain fiber, calcium, antioxidants, vitamins K and C (vitamin C benefits), iron, and a wide range of other nutrients that can help prevent various dental and health problems. Antioxidants are very effective in removing unwanted toxins that result from natural processes and environmental conditions.

Mangos

Mangos also help with regular digestion. In addition, mangoes promote healthy gums. This power fruit contains fiber which helps solve constipation problems and gut inflammation.

Almonds

Almonds are another food you should take as they are a good source of calcium and protein while being low in sugar. In addition, they are a great substitute for sugary candies.

Addressing Oral Health Avoids Problems in the Digestive System

When your oral health is compromised, the smooth, regular operation of your digestive system can suffer simultaneously. Fortunately, you have options.

1 Relief for Tooth Pain

When eating is painful, or you have tooth pain, you avoid putting pressure on a loose or sensitive tooth. Meaning you are probably chewing more cautiously and less thoroughly. You tend to dine on soft foods or liquids, avoiding chewier vitamins, proteins, and fibers on the menu.

Therefore, recurring tooth pain means it is time to give your dentist a call. You could have a cavity that needs treatment, an inflammation or infection or any problem that makes eating uncomfortable. In all these scenarios, your dentist can provide the solutions you need to make eating enjoyable once again.

2 Replacing Missing Teeth

Losing one or more of your teeth can have a significant impact on your ability to chew and bite as quickly as you should. Not only that, when you have lost a tooth, your other teeth and your jaw is also affected.

When chewing forces get distributed unevenly because of a missing tooth, you can experience tooth pain and tooth movement. Tooth misalignment can not only change your bite but cause strain on the TMJ  joint as well. And without proper stimulation of chewing and biting, the bone underneath a missing tooth might shrink.

Whenever your tooth or teeth are lost, it is essential to see your dentist right away for treatment. If a tooth needs extraction, it is crucial to get professional care. After losing a tooth, you might have several options to restore your smile, including bridges, dentures, and even dental implants.

3 Treatment for Dry Mouth

When your salivary glands can not produce enough saliva, it could lead to a condition known as xerostomia or dry mouth. Less saliva means fewer enzymes at work that start the process of digestion. Saliva has many more health benefits. Saliva helps to wash your teeth with enamel-strengthening minerals. Thus reducing the risk of mouth ulcers and oral thrush as the saliva helps neutralize acids in your mouth.

Dry mouth can become a problem when you age or arise because of certain medical treatments, conditions, or medications. If you notice your saliva production decreasing, talk to your dentist. There are solutions, from simply chewing gum or making dietary changes to drugs and protective dental treatments for more severe cases.

Conclusion

The first step in healthy digestion always begins with your oral health. Indigestion, bloating, and gas are the common, unappetizing side effects noticed in the case of poor digestion. But there is always something else to consider. Limiting your diet to soft foods and liquids, difficulty swallowing, suffering through painful meals – are a few of the health issues you might encounter. 

If you have not visited your dentist for a while, now is the best time. Remember that restoring your oral health will facilitate digestion and more enjoyable dining. Finally, a very good reason to smile.