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Asked by  | 29th Jan, 2009, 12:03: AM

Expert Answer:

 

Digestion is a complex process which is controlled by several factors. pH plays a crucial role in a normally functioning digestive tract. In the mouth, pharynx, and esophagus, pH is typically about 6.8, very weakly acidic. Saliva controls pH in this region of the digestive tract. Salivary amylase is contained in saliva and starts the breakdown of carbohydrates into monosaccharides. Most digestive enzymes are sensitive to pH and will not function in a low-pH environment like the stomach. A pH below 7 indicates an acid, while a pH above 7 indicates a base; the concentration of the acid or base, however, does also play a role.

pH in the stomach is very acidic and inhibits the breakdown of carbohydrates while there. The strong acid content of the stomach provides two benefits, both serving to denature proteins for further digestion in the small intestines, as well as providing non-specific immunity, retarding or eliminating various pathogens.

In the small intestines, the duodenum provides critical pH balancing to activate digestive enzymes. The liver secretes bile into the duodenum to neutralise the acidic conditions from the stomach. Also the pancreatic duct empties into the duodenum, adding bicarbonate to neutralize the acidic chyme, thus creating a neutral environment. The mucosal tissue of the small intestines is alkaline, creating a pH of about 8.5, thus enabling absorption in a mild alkaline in the environment

Tooth decay is caused by specific types of acid-producing bacteria which cause damage in the presence of fermentable carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose.The mineral content of teeth is sensitive to increases in acidity from the production of lactic acid. Specifically, a tooth (which is primarily mineral in content) is in a constant state of back-and-forth demineralization and remineralization between the tooth and surrounding saliva. When the pH at the surface of the tooth drops below 5.5, demineralization proceeds faster than remineralization (i.e. there is a net loss of mineral structure on the tooth's surface). This results in the ensuing decay. The root surface is more vulnerable to the demineralization process than enamel because cementum begins to demineralize at 6.7 pH, which is higher than enamel's critical pH.

Answered by  | 7th Feb, 2009, 07:22: AM

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