The digestive system is made up of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver and pancreas. Its function is fundamentally to transform the ingested food into simple substances that can be absorbed and used by the organism.
The mouth is the gateway to the digestive tract; in it the functions of chewing and insalivation are carried out. Mechanical digestion begins with chewing. The front teeth or incisors cut the food, the canines tear it and the premolars and molars crush it.
The tongue, an accessory organ made up of muscular tissue and covered by mucous, has in its dorsal and lateral part taste buds that are in charge of differentiating the flavors of the meals. The food is mobilized by the tongue and mixed with saliva, a substance secreted by the salivary glands that keeps the oral cavity moist. Saliva contains water, mucus, antibodies, and two enzymes that break down food into small molecules: amylase or ptyalin, which breaks down carbohydrates, and lipase, which starts the digestion of fats.
Once the process of chewing and insalivation is finished, the food becomes a soft and flexible mass called a food bolus, which is then propelled by the tongue backwards and towards the palate and passes to the pharynx, which is known as swallowing.
Good oral health is essential for digestion and general health. If the food is comminuted properly, the saliva acts better on the food bolus and it is digested properly in the stomach by the gastric juice. Poor chewing produces slow digestion, stomach heaviness, gas, and weight loss. Many patients are not aware of this and do not imagine that the symptoms can be caused by problems that affect chewing, such as loss of teeth, caries that generate pain, poorly adapted prostheses, or crowns that detach or fall off. When these situations occur it is very important to go to the dentist to restore the cavities or, if necessary, perform rehabilitation with prosthesis or implants in order to replace the missing pieces. Good oral hygiene is also essential, since bacteria in the mouth can cause gastrointestinal infections.
On the other hand, the problems of the digestive tract can cause dehydration, which manifests itself with dryness of the mouth and tongue. The malabsorption of vitamins and minerals also affects the tongue and oral mucosa. Halitosis (bad breath) is due in most cases to infectious problems of the gums, tooth decay, etc., but sometimes it is caused by stomach or liver disorders. Because of this, when problems of this type arise, a complete medical evaluation is important.