The digestive system

The stages of digestion

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The mouth

How does the mouth transform food?

Teeth break up food into smaller pieces. The incisors cut, the canines tear and the molars crush food. This mechanical transformation is called mastication

What does saliva do?

Saliva is produced by salivary glands in the mouth. It moistens food, making it easier to break up. Saliva contains enzymes such as salivary amylase that break down certain complex carbohydrates into smaller elements, called simple carbohydrates.

How does the tongue help digestion?

The tongue is a very powerful muscle that helps move food around the mouth, making it easier to chew and mix with saliva. It also helps move the bolus of food towards the back of the mouth so it can be swallowed. Taste buds on the tongue help us determine how food tastes.

Did you know that saliva plays an important role in our perception of taste? Taste buds are only sensitive to substances that have been dissolved. Food must therefore be soaked with saliva for us to be able to sense what it tastes like, whether it is good or bad!

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