Did you know that the condition of your mouth may affect your digestion?
Chewing your food thoroughly is an important part of digestion because large chunks of food are harder for your body to digest and eliminate. Cavities in teeth continue to grow until they are filled. Eventually, the cavity will grow so large that it is bothersome to you, and you will avoid chewing in that area or restrict your diet to liquids and soft foods that require little or no chewing. This low roughage diet can cause nausea and constipation. Poor fitting dentures or partials or ones that cause pain when you chew are also a cause for inadequate chewing. If you feel you are experiencing this, it might be time to invest in a new set.
Your gum health can also affect your chewing. Any condition that causes pain or swelling of your gums can make you avoid chewing in that area. Periodontal disease (also called gum disease or pyorrhea) causes receding gums which in turns leads to loose teeth. The problems of trying to chew with loose teeth are obvious. Remember, not chewing your food well makes it harder to digest it.
The roof of your mouth is pretty tough, but a scratch, burn or other issue can make it quite painful—and make you not want to chew properly.
Your tongue serves two purposes: to move the food around and to aid your sense of taste via your taste buds. If your sense of taste is diminished, eating is no longer pleasant, and you may avoid eating altogether. Malnutrition due to loss of taste is often coupled with depression, and the two conditions feed off each other, each making the other worse. Short-term loss of taste may be experienced after a strong alcoholic beverage or a burn to the tongue. Heavy smokers and chronic alcoholics may experience a more long-term loss of taste. Some medications, like those used in chemotherapy, can also affect taste. Loss of taste is one of the symptoms associated with COVID 19. And unfortunately, our sense of taste does diminish as we age, so some elderly people may experience this as well. You may not be able to do much about aging, but you can eliminate other habits that might affect your ability to taste your food.
Saliva or spit lubricates your mouth and moistens your food. It also contains enzymes that start the digestion process. Dry mouth may make eating less pleasurable or cause you to change the foods you eat. Many medications (both prescription and over the counter) can have dry mouth as a side effect. Treating this may require a collaboration between your dentist and your physician if it is prescription related.
So please take the time to chew and savor your food, and if you are having a problem that prevents you from chewing thoroughly, please see your dentist. If you do not have a dentist, we are accepting new patients at my office located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH. Call us at 440-960-1940 to reserve your seat! (Please note that as of 2021 we continue to make partial dentures but we no longer make complete dentures. Complete dentures are referred out.)
*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.