What is the roll of the mouth in digestion? Mouth is the first organ involved in digestion of food and drinks that are ingested. In fact, it’s often referred to as beginning of the digestive system. As you take in food, the nerve system triggers salivary glands found in the mouth to produce saliva which ease the process of chewing by softening the solid food particles to create a food bolus which is later passed into the esophagus.
The saliva also coats the oral mucosa lining of the mouth to prevent any damage that may arise during chewing process. Studies show that saliva contains 99.5% water while the 0.5% consists of mucus, enzymes amylase, antibacterial compounds, glycoprotein and electrolytes. Enzyme amylase breaks down starch into simple sugars such as dextrin and maltose. These sugars later undergo further digestion in the small intestines before being absorbed into the blood stream. It is also important to note that only 30% starch digestion takes place in the mouth.
Also, salivary glands produce salivary lipase whose main role is to initiate digestion of fat found in foods. This role is very important especially in newborn infants as their pancreatic lipase takes time to develop and start digesting fats. More importantly, the saliva plays an antimicrobial function, that is, it helps prevent accumulation of plague on teeth by facilitating washing away of any food particles that adhere to teeth and jaws. To prevent formation of salts, the saliva contains certain proteins which effectively prevent precipitation during chewing process.
For enzyme amylase to work optimally, the pH levels in saliva has to be 6.2 – 7.4. Luckily, saliva contains ions which act as a buffer to ensure that the pH does not fall and rise above the recommended level. They also help to prevent minerals on the dental hard tissues from dissolving as you chew food.
The tongue is another important component of the mouth. It facilitates churning to form food bolus. It also has taste buds which are packed with receptor cells. The saliva creates a liquid medium in which chemicals are transmitted to the receptor cells for interpretation. This is one of the main reasons why people who have inadequate saliva experienced reduced ability to taste foods and drinks.
What should you do to promote functionalism of the mouth? One of the guaranteed ways of ensuring that your mouth functions optimally is by maintain oral health at a high level. This entails brushing your teeth after meals and going for regular dental checkups.