Oral Anatomy

Understanding the anatomy of the mouth is vital to understand the importance of proper dental care. The mouth, also called the buccal or oral cavity, serves multiple functions. Not only do we use it to eat, we use it to breathe, speak, laugh, smile and kiss. Mainly, the mouth is a passageway for food and air, so must be kept healthy to ensure optimal health of the entire body.

The oral cavity is bordered by the lips, teeth, gum tissue, cheek lining, palates (hard and soft), and the glottis. The hard and soft palates at the front and rear of the roof of the mouth, respectively, separate the mouth from the nasal cavity to permit breathing and eating. Descending from the soft palate and mimicking a punching bag is the soft-tissued uvula.

There are two different areas that comprise the mouth itself. There is the oral cavity proper and the remaining area between the teeth and cheeks is called the vestibule. The oral cavity and vestibule are lined with mucous membranes that moisten the mouth through three sets of salivary glands and additional small glands that help remove food and debris. Enzymes secreted by these glands play an initial role in digestion by breaking down food, softening it, and allowing it to be swallowed.

The tongue, lips and teeth along with other parts of the mouth, are necessary for multiple functions. While eating is the function most vital to life, a close second is how these components of the oral cavity modify air flow, helping produce sounds crucial for speech. After all, we are social beings who crave communication.

The Tongue

Arising from the floor of the mouth in the oral cavity proper is the tongue, the large muscle attached to the mouth floor via the frenulum linguae. The tongue is responsible for moving food around within the mouth and mixing it with saliva to facilitate digestion.

The tongue also plays a role in the enjoyment of food. It possesses specialized membranes populated with papillae, housing the taste buds which lend to its unique texture. Taste buds are the sensory receptors that distinguish between sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory (umami) flavors.

The Lips

Lips are the opening to the mouth comprised of connective tissue, nerves, muscles, reddish hued skin on the outside and a mucous membrane, called the mucosa lining the inside. The muscles surrounding the lips allow for expressions like smiling and frowning and are integral to the human digestive system.

The Teeth and Gums

Teeth and gums have symbiotic relationship. The gums, which are comprised of gingivae, are specialized membranes which have a primary function of supporting the teeth.

Teeth are the main components of the mouth as they are required to bite off, rip and break food down into pieces small enough to digest.

Remember that a healthy mouth equals a healthy body and proper teeth and gum care are absolutely necessary to prevent tooth and gum loss which negatively impact health. Brush and floss regularly to ward off dental diseases such as teeth and gum disease and gingival infection. If you discover red gums, gums separating from the teeth or loose gums around teeth, contact New Look Dental immediately. Stay tuned for our next blog for details regarding the anatomy of the teeth and gums.