When you hear the word “digestion,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, probably your stomach and maybe even your intestines, right? The truth of the matter is that the process actually starts in your mouth with chewing, meaning your teeth are essential to your body being able to absorb all the nutrients it needs from the food you eat. So what happens to your digestion if your teeth aren’t in the best shape? Your dentist in Southlake discusses how an unhealthy mouth can impact much more than just your smile.
Your Teeth’s Role in Digestion
The whole digestive system is quite well designed if you think about it. You take a bite of food, and from the moment it enters your body, it starts getting broken down by your saliva. Your teeth grind your food into a smooth paste that is easy for your stomach to handle. After you swallow, your stomach acid breaks the food down further, and it enters into your intestinal track where the nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream and taken around your body. This gives you energy throughout the day and makes sure your body has the resources it needs to repair and maintain itself. Of course, if this first step is compromised, it can actually throw off the entire system.
How Unhealthy Teeth Harm Digestion
If a person is unable to chew effectively for any reason, whether due to multiple decayed, missing, or broken teeth, this can lead to all sorts of problems that they’ll feel from head to toe.
Firstly, people with compromised teeth tend to have to limit their food choices to easy-to-chew, less nutritious items. This usually means consuming foods that contain a lot of starch and sugar. This cannot only lead to problems like diabetes and obesity, but it also causes the body to miss out on essential nutrients, which can weaken someone’s immune system. Over time, the digestive tract will adapt to this diet and be less capable of handling more hearty foods like cooked meats and fibrous vegetables.
But, let’s say someone manages to maintain a healthy diet despite having unhealthy teeth. Being unable to adequately chew means that the food is less broken down by the time it reaches the stomach and intestines. As a consequence, the stomach has to produce more acid, which can lead to indigestion and even heartburn. The intestines won’t be able to take in as many nutrients as well because the food is too dense for it to process. This kind of exposure can actually irritate the intestinal lining as well, which can cause gastrointestinal problems and systemic inflammation, which is the precursor to countless types of disorders like diverticulitis and Crohn’s disease.
How To Maintain a Healthy Mouth for Healthy Digestion
Entire books have been written about how the mouth and teeth can affect digestion and someone’s overall health …this is just scratching the surface! Luckily, taking great care of your teeth is relatively easy in this day and age, and you likely already know how to do it. The best practices are simple: brush and floss at least twice a day, visit your dentist for checkups and cleanings twice a year, and limit your consumption of highly-sugary foods. And, should you develop a dental problem, get it taken care of right away before a small issue starts to harm your entire body!
By keeping your teeth nice and strong, you’ll help your digestion work just like it should, which will ensure you feel happy and healthy as the years go by, which is certainly something to smile about!
About the Author
Dr. Ravi Doctor is an award-winning family dentist in Southlake, TX. Over the years, he has been voted to the Super Dentists® list by his peers multiple times and been designated as one of “America’s Top Dentists” by the Consumer’s Research Council. He truly believes that a healthy mouth is essential to a healthy body, so he provides world-class, comprehensive dental care to patients of all ages at his private practice. To learn more about everything you’ve just read or schedule your next checkup, he can be contacted through his website.