The human mouth is a very complex mechanism. It’s vital for human digestion, communication, and respiration. Life would be impossible without a mouth.
A mouth is divided into two sections: the oral cavity (which is filled mostly by your tongue) and the vestibule, the area between the cheeks and teeth. It consists of several components all working together so you can eat, drink, speak, smile, and breathe. But what are these components? And how do they contribute to the mouth’s functions?
Teeth are one of the most important components of the mouth. They consist of structures made of hard enamel that are rooted to your alveolar bone. Most adults have 32 teeth, consisting of 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, and 12 molars (that include the 4 wisdom teeth). Your gums secure your teeth in place and help protect the roots from damage and decay.
The teeth are critical to healthy nutrition and digestion; they are used to process food, tearing (biting) and grinding (chewing) large pieces of food into smaller pieces so they can be ingested, or swallowed.
Because they get so much use, teeth can become damaged or worn over time. In some cases, the damage can be repaired. However, if the damage is too severe the damaged teeth may have to be extracted (removed). Proper oral care, such as brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings, can prevent a lot of the issues that lead to tooth loss and damage.
Drool and spit — also known as saliva — may seem kind of gross, but like your teeth, they play a major role in digestion and oral health. The salivary glands create saliva. It helps keep your mouth moist, making it easier to eat, swallow, and talk.
Everyone has six salivary glands: two glands overlapping the jaw near your ear, two beneath your jaw, and two tucked under your tongue. Saliva consists mostly of water, protein, and minerals. Saliva also helps neutralize and wash away the acids created by cavity-causing bacteria.
Your tongue is a multi-tasking muscle, helping you speak, swallow, chew, and taste. It’s divided into two sections:
- The oral section (tip, blade, front, center, and back)
- The pharyngeal (throat) section
Your tongue helps to hold and position food so that it can be chewed up and swallowed. It’s vital for language, assisting in the pronunciation of many of the words and sounds we use for verbal communication. If that’s not enough, the upper surface of your tongue is covered in about 10,000 taste buds. These structures allow you to experience sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors. They can also tell you which foods are safe to eat and which ones aren’t.
Lips and Cheeks
The lips and cheeks contain muscles that help us speak, eat and form facial expressions. The lips keep food and saliva from falling out of your mouth. If your nasal and sinus cavities are congested, parting your lips allows you to breathe through your mouth.
Your mouth consists of two palates: the hard and soft palates. The hard palate forms the bony roof of your mouth. The soft palate is a fold of membrane that hangs between the mouth cavity and the back of the throat. The uvula, that little dangling bit you can see in the back of your mouth when you stick out your tongue and say ‘ah’ is a part of your soft palate.
The temporomandibular joints allow you to open and close your mouth, and move your lower jaw forward and backward as well as from side to side, assisting with talking, chewing, and swallowing.
The Masseter Muscle
What’s the strongest muscle in your body? Hint: It’s in your mouth. No, it’s not the tongue, but the masseter muscle, which runs through the rear part of your mouth from the lower part of the skull to the lower jaw. You use your masseter muscle to open and close your mouth and chew your food. How strong is it? Your masseter muscle is capable of generating a bite force of up to 200 pounds per square inch! (For comparison, pit bulls have an average bite force of around 235 PSI.)
The Dental Space Keeps the Smile on Your Face
With all these working parts, you’re bound to experience problems from time to time. If you’ve been experiencing mouth pain, have damaged or missing teeth, or are having difficulties eating, drinking, or speaking, the Dental Space can help. The Dental Space is San Marcos, TX’s modern family dentist clinic, providing a full spectrum of family dental services, including checkups and cleanings, extractions, bridgework, teeth whitening, crowns, fillings, and more. We welcome patients of all ages, from infants as young as six months to seniors sixty-five and over. This includes new patients as well!
Use the Contact Us page or call us at 512-667-9770 to schedule an appointment today. The Dental Space is located at 1101 Thorpe Ln, Suite 101, just off IH 35 in the Springtown Center Shopping Mall. We serve patients in San Marcos, TX, and surrounding communities. The Dental Space accepts most forms of dental insurance and provides patients with a wide range of payment options.