Although many people may think of digestion as taking place in the stomach, digestion really begins when we bite into food.  Once the food enters the mouth, we begin to chew it with our teeth. This physically breaks the food down, a process called mastication.  The jaw moves in a circular motion and works together with the lips, the cheeks, the tongue, the soft palate, and the hyoid bone, a tiny bone below the lower jaw that the muscles in the lower jaw attach to. The lips and the cheeks help to keep the food inside the mouth and push it in between the teeth so that it can be chewed up. Because it is attached to the muscles in the lower jaw, the hyoid bone helps to control the movements of the jaw and tongue when we chew the food. The jaw continues to chew the food until the food is in small enough pieces to be swallowed.  The movements of the jaw and tongue force air into the nose.  This air has tiny food particles in it. These particles are so tiny that they can only be seen with a microscope. The same receptors in the nose that allow us to smell, pick up on these food particles. This gives us an idea of the smell of the food.

Last Updated: Saturday, July 16, 2011