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What is the mouth's role in the digestive system?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Gastroenterology
Pop a grape, chocolate, or shrimp into your mouth. Immediately, digestion begins. In the mouth itself, the tongue and teeth help to get the process started by chewing and chopping the food so it's small enough to be swallowed. Salivary glands secrete saliva, releasing an enzyme that changes some starches into simple sugars and softens the food for swallowing. The saliva also allows the taste buds of the tongue to sense the flavors of your foods.

Swallowing is a complicated, coordinated act that begins when your tongue pushes food back into your throat or pharynx. This voluntary action sets off an involuntary chain of events that transports the food from the throat into the esophagus and down into the stomach, a journey that typically takes eight seconds.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.