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Digestion Begins in Your Mouth – How to Chew Food

Ensuring you have proper digestion is essential for general health. You need a good range of nutritious food so your body can fight infection and disease more efficiently and function optimally. Most people imagine digestion begins in your stomach, but it begins much earlier than that, from the moment you start to chew your food. If you do not or cannot chew food properly, it can result in digestive problems and poorer or inadequate nutrition. Many people fail to chew food properly, and this puts them at risk of:

  • Choking, where your airway becomes obstructed, preventing normal breathing
  • Aspirating foods where you accidentally suck in food particles or fluids into your lungs
  • Dehydration, where your body loses too much water and which is often because of diarrhoea
  • Becoming overweight because when you don’t chew your food properly and eat too quickly, your brain cannot register that you are full soon enough to prevent you from overeating
  • Malnourishment, where you do not have enough of certain nutrients to maintain overall health

How Long Should You Chew Food?

Ideally, you should chew each mouthful of food around 30 times. Harder foods like steak or nuts may require longer chewing, while softer foods may need less chewing. When you chew food, your back teeth, which have lots of intricate grooves and fissures, begin grinding the food into smaller pieces, increasing its surface area, so digestion is easier. At the same time, your mouth produces more saliva that helps lubricate the food so your tongue can form the chewed-up food into a bolus making it easier to swallow. Saliva also contains important enzymes that help begin the process of digestion.

Ensuring You Chew Food for Long Enough

Most of us fail to chew food for long enough, and it can be difficult to change habits of a lifetime. You may want to count the number of times you chew your food and generally slow down when you eat a meal, taking time to savour the taste and smell, concentrating on eating and eliminating other distractions like phones, TVs or tablets. If this sounds too hard, consider the potential benefits, which can include:

  • Consuming less food as your brain will register your stomach is full more easily, which is great if you are trying to lose weight
  • Your body will gain maximum nutrition from food
  • When you are well nourished, your energy levels can improve

What If Chewing Is Painful?

If chewing is causing you pain, please come and see us. It could be caused by problems such as an untreated cavity, a failing filling, or another dental restoration like a crown or bridge. Healthy teeth shouldn’t feel painful or sensitive when you bite and chew your food, and treatment could be as simple as replacing a crumbling filling. Some people experience painful jaw joints when they chew, and we can also diagnose and treat problems affecting these joints. With the right dental care, we can ensure you can chew food comfortably and pain-free, making meal times much more enjoyable.