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Good oral hygiene is tied to good digestion

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Dr. MD Ligia Muntianu, LSDM

This article describes the organs, their process, and the possible effects of bad oral hygiene.

At young and old ages, cleaning teeth is strongly recommended twice a day, especially in the evening after the last meal, to contribute to good oral hygiene and general health.

The mouth is the first part of the digestive tract. Here is the place where digestion begins. Mastication comprises a lot of complex food circuits. First, food must be mechanically reduced into smaller parts and mixed it well with saliva. Then, once the alimentary bolus is formed, the tongue and teeth, lips, and cheek organize together to form a kind of sleigh on which the food bowl is transferred through the oropharynx into the esophagus.

Trituration is a mechanical process done with teeth from the lateral zone. That means with our 2 upper and lower premolars and upper and lower 2/3 molars. The integrity of these teeth makes one capable of reducing the size of food morcels into smaller parts. Mixing these smaller parts with food means the beginning of digestion because saliva has digestive enzymes.

The tongue has multiple roles in the mastication process. It moves food morcels from one side to another, from the left side to the right side of the mouth. This movement has multiple roles: one is to stimulate gustative papillae to sense the taste of food. Another is to stimulate small salivary glands' secretion, and together with cheek movements, it helps to mix with the whole saliva coming from the major salivary glands. This process is thoroughly done, and the brain knows when it is well done by receiving information regarding food consistency from teeth proprioceptors.

These proprioceptors - responsible for food consistency input information, which regulates masticatory force and intensity - especially one that responds to position and movement - belong to the periodontal apparatus between the dental root and bone. It actually forms an elastic link between the root and the bone. The periodontal ligaments are isolated from the mouth environment by an epithelial seal called epithelial junction. It prevents bacteria, saliva, and food from invading the bone. Any inflammation of the gingiva due to dental plaque accumulation can and will open the epithelial seal.

Once a tooth is extracted, the periodontal ligaments are broken, and they never regenerate. Each tooth provides over 5 million proprioceptors that give the brain information regarding food consistency, so the masticatory force is regulated. Dental implants are inserted into the bone, but they lack periodontal ligaments. Their link to the bone is ankylotic. So the information they provide to the brain to regulate masticatory force is much lower than natural roots.

Salivary secretion is stimulated by oral hygiene and has a beneficial effect on the mouth’s health, preventing teeth from carries and exhibiting antibacterial effects. Conversely, salivary flow diminishes when oral hygiene is bad. Being diminished means nutrients can not be released from food bites, so the digestive process is affected.

Oral hygiene is essential because mouth flora forms a biofilm, and that is called dental plaque. It has to be cleaned away regularly from the teeth, tongue, or any prosthetic restoration because leaving it there changes the oral acidity. This acid environment demineralizes dental enamel and allows bacteria to attack the teeth forming dental caries. So it has to be understood that dental caries is an infectious disease. Poor oral hygiene means a lot of dental plaque accumulates in the oral cavity. It also means a lot of bacteria proliferates. The mouth becomes, in this case, a reservoir of bacterias.

Deglutition - the action or process of swallowing - is a permanent function of the masticatory organ, and it happens with or without food. The number of deglutition one performs in 24h is around 590-1600 times. A person with poor oral mouth hygiene will ingest 1600 times in 24h bacteria from the oral flora, and in time this can provoke gastritis, stomach pain, or even aspiration pneumonia. Furthermore, in time, together with minerals from the saliva, it turns into dental tartar. Accumulation of dental tartar affects the periodontal ligaments, leading to gingivitis and bone resorption, and teeth loss in severe forms.

Teeth loss affects the mechanical process of food trituration and impairs the beginning of digestion since saliva is not mixed with it. As a result, patients will swallow big morcels of food that the stomach cannot digest, nutrients are not extracted, and this can lead to malnutrition and digestive tract disease.

Poor oral hygiene affects dental structure generating caries, tooth deterioration, poor mastication periodontal ligaments generating bleeding, gingivitis, tooth mobility, bone resorption, and tooth loss= poor mastication salivary flow rate diminishes

digestive tract health by dental plaque and bacteria accumulation and transfer through each deglutition

At young ages and old ages, taking care of oral hygiene is mandatory twice a day, especially in the evening, after the last meal, to contribute to good general health.

And how about you...?


About Aceso

ACESO is a patient-centric solution for smart and sustainable healthcare, employing a co-creative approach to realize integrated health and oral-care platform in which intelligent devices use data analytics for adaptable health and wellbeing. ACESO will monitor parameters related to physical health (blood pressure, glucose, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc), activity, sleep, and oral hygiene in an integrative manner which will provide primary users with personalized and adaptive feedback extracted by an underlying artificial intelligence engine. A patient-centric approach that actively involves users in maintaining their health will bring clear benefits for the elderly and caregivers. Aceso is funded by AAL. More about Aceso...

About AAL

AAL- Ageing Well in the Digital World - is a funding program that aims to create a better quality of life for older people and to strengthen industrial opportunities in the field of healthy aging technology and innovation. More about AAL.


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