As dentists and oral health practitioners, we are passionate about everything that has to do with your mouth. Yet, we understand everyone might not be as fascinated with the mouth as we are. However, we are sure many of you have often wondered about the mouth’s different functions and anatomy. As such, we thought it would be helpful to break it down and explain the mouth and its various parts to you in a simple way. That way you can better understand how important the mouth is to your overall health and well-being. Consider this your introduction, a sort of Mouth 101. Now let’s get started!
What is the mouth?
The mouth, or oral cavity, is an oval-shaped opening at the base of your skull. It is the entrance to your respiratory and digestive systems. It starts at your lips and ends at your throat. The mouth allows you to breathe, chew, drink, swallow, talk, taste, and digest food and drink. Basically, the mouth lets air and nutrients into your body and is what helps you speak.
What are the different parts of your mouth?
The inside of your mouth is made up of the following parts:
- The palate is the roof of your mouth and is divided into two parts: the front part is hard and has ridges, the back part is soft and relatively smooth.
- The lining of your mouth is made up of mucous membranes also known as the oral mucosa.
- Three main pairs of salivary glands produce saliva, and many other tiny salivary glands are located throughout the mouth.
- Sensory receptors located throughout your mouth help you sense the temperature and texture of food and drink.
- Taste buds help you taste foods and flavours: sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.
- Thirty-two teeth crush and tear food apart.
- The tongue is a muscle that helps you taste and move food around your mouth and helps you speak.
- Uvula, the muscular structure that hangs at the back of your mouth, allows food to move from your mouth down your throat.
What does the tongue do?
The tongue is a muscle that is crucial to chewing and swallowing food. It is covered with moist, pink tissue and tiny bumps called papillae that give it its rough texture. Thousands of taste buds cover the surfaces of the papillae and allow you to taste food and drink. For example, sweet detectors are located at the tip of the tongue, whereas salt detectors are located on the front sides. Sour detectors are located along the sides, while bitter ones are located at the rear.
But the tongue is also very important for speaking. Its range of motion allows you to form a wide range of sounds and “phonemes.” And different languages require you to move your tongue in diverse ways, some of which are hard for non-native speakers.
Why is saliva important?
Saliva, commonly known as spit, serves multiple purposes. Made up of 99% water and 1% salt and proteins, saliva keeps your mouth moist, helps break down food, helps you chew and swallow, fights germs in your mouth, and prevents bad breath. In addition, the proteins and minerals in saliva help protect tooth enamel and prevent decay and gum disease. It can even help secure dentures in place. Most people secrete about 0.5 to 1.5 litres of saliva per day!
A few fun facts about your teeth!
You use your teeth every day. They are important for chewing and crushing food. But we bet there are plenty of things about teeth that you weren’t aware of. For example,
Did you know
- That teeth aren’t bones but are made of enamel, the strongest substance in your body?
- Or that like bones teeth have blood vessels and nerves inside them? But bones produce new vessels in their marrow, while teeth do not.
- Or that teeth have roots? The root is tucked under the gumline and attached to the jaw bone by connective tissue.
- Or that your teeth start to form before you are even born? Cells called ameoblasts start to generate the enamel that forms your teeth while you are still in the womb.
- Or that you are born with 20 primary teeth? They sit just below the gumline waiting to emerge (usually between six months to a year of age).
- Or that adults have 32 permanent teeth? And many of us have four third molars, or “wisdom teeth,” which appear in our late teens or early twenties.
- Or did you know that humans have a 200-lb bite force? That’s comparable to a pitbull with a bite force of 235 lb. Now that’s a lot of power!
Taking care of the health of your mouth is important as it is responsible for so many key functions. A healthy mouth will have moist, firm, and pink tissues. You shouldn’t have bumps, rough patches, gaps, or flaps. Adult teeth shouldn’t move and gums should be firm but not swollen or sore. To keep your mouth healthy, brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day and floss once a day. In addition, drink plenty of water, avoid sugary foods and drinks, eat a healthy diet and don’t smoke or chew tobacco. And remember to visit your dentist twice a year for regular check-ups and cleanings. Make an appointment at the Fortin Poirier Dental Clinic today.