Can Your Dental Health Affect Your Digestive Health?

Eating, talking, smiling—consciously or unconsciously, so much of daily life is influenced by our oral health. And here’s one more thought to chew on: oral health affects digestive health as well.

After all, digestion doesn’t begin the moment food reaches the stomach—it begins before we swallow that very first bite. The digestive process gets its start in two ways:

  • Mastication

“Chew your food properly.” Probably every child has heard this piece of helpful advice, because it’s hazardous to swallow large pieces of food. But there’s more to it! There’s a positive benefit for your digestive system when you keep chewing until that mouthful has been pulverized into a uniform, almost paste-like consistency.

But even though chewing food properly leads to easier digestion, dental problems can make the simple act of eating difficult and uncomfortable. Missing teeth or tooth pain can lead to swallowing food before it’s been properly broken down and softened, making it harder for your meal to make its way down the esophagus and more work to digest.

  • Saliva Production

As it happens, there’s science behind the expression “mouthwatering.” When we smell something tasty, or have a bite to eat, or sometimes even think about a favorite food, our saliva glands increase production—and this increase has a digestive purpose.

Saliva contains digestive enzymes. These enzymes help break carbohydrate molecules into smaller sugar molecules, which are easier for our bodies to digest and use for energy. Saliva also contains enzymes that begin the digestion of fat and help neutralize acids as we eat, and, for those who suffer from acid reflux, helps wash acids back into the stomach.

When your oral health is compromised, the normally smooth operation of your digestive system can suffer as well.

  • Replacing Missing Teeth

Losing one or more of your teeth has a real impact on your ability to bite and chew as easily as you should. Not only that, when you’ve lost a tooth, your other teeth and your jaw are affected.

When chewing forces are distributed unevenly because a tooth is missing from its specific spot, you can experience tooth pain and tooth movement. Tooth misalignment can change your bite and cause strain on the temporomandibular joint. And without the stimulation of biting and chewing, the bone underneath a missing tooth can shrink.

Whenever a tooth or teeth are lost, it’s important to see the doctor right away for treatment. If a tooth needs to be extracted, it’s important to get professional care. After losing a tooth, you have several options to restore your smile, including dentures, bridges, and dental implants.

Implants are one of the most effective and long-lasting solutions for resuming your normal eating habits. They function like your natural teeth, and, like your natural teeth, stimulate the jawbone as you chew to prevent the bone from shrinking over time.

Periodontists like the doctor are experts in implant procedures. Because they are specialists in treating the gum tissue and bone structure surrounding the teeth, they are ideally qualified to help you restore the function and appearance of your smile.

Whether you need a single implant or a multiple implant, talk to a member of our Falls Church, Virginia team to learn all about your options.

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