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Mouth: function, anatomy and diseases

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 252 views

The mouth is the entrance gate for everything eatable and drinkable. It is the uppermost part of the digestive tract, where chemical digestion begins. With the help of the teeth and tongue, the food that is fed in is broken up and mixed with saliva to form a slippery pulp, which is then transported into the throat and further into the esophagus by the swallowing process. The mouth is also important for voice production, breathing and the expression of emotions (facial expressions). Read everything important about the mouth!

what is the mouth

The mouth (Latin: Os) is the upper opening of the digestive tract, in which the food is broken up and processed into a slippery and swallowable pulp. It is also involved in voice formation, facial expressions and breathing .

The oral cavity (cavitas oris) extends from the mouth cleft (enclosed by the lips) to the pharynx (the exit to the pharynx ). The palate forms the roof of the oral cavity, and the floor of the mouth forms the lower end. The cheeks represent the lateral boundaries. Inside the oral cavity are the two rows of teeth and the tongue. The gap-shaped space between the lips and the closed rows of teeth is called the oral cavity vestibule.

What is the function of the mouth?

The mouth fulfills various functions:


The mouth has the task of absorbing food together with the lips. The teeth in cooperation with the masticatory muscles take care of biting and crushing of the ingested food. The incisors and canines have the task of dividing the food, the molars the task of crushing it and mixing it with the saliva (saliva) into a paste. The muscular tongue supports the process.

The chemical digestion of carbohydrates begins during chewing by enzymes contained in saliva (such as amylase) . Millions of microorganisms contained in the saliva (oral flora) participate in digestion together with germs in the spaces between the teeth, on the tongue and on the mucous membrane. The taste buds, which are mainly located on the tongue, perceive the taste of food as soon as they come into contact with the flavors of the food dissolved in the saliva.

Saliva is produced by various salivary glands, most notably the paired parotid, submandibular, and sublingual salivary glands. The release of saliva is partly continuous, partly reflexive – for example, the smell of food, chewing movements and tactile stimuli during the dental visit can cause more saliva to be secreted.

The saliva has other functions besides digestion. For example, it protects the oral mucosa from drying out. It is also antibacterial. Last but not least, the saliva with various ingredients (such as bicarbonate) ensures that the prevailing acidity ( pH value ) remains approximately in the neutral range. This is very important: If the environment is too basic for a long time, tartar forms faster . If it is too acidic for a long time, the tooth enamel becomes thinner.

vocalization and facial expressions

Another important function of the mouth is as a resonance organ that is involved in voice formation. Speech can be articulated and tones can be changed due to the great deformability of the palate, tongue and lips.

The facial muscles around the mouth can express feelings together with the lips. But it is also vital for the baby, who needs to close his lips airtight around the mother’s nipple or the teat of the milk bottle in order to be able to create the necessary negative pressure in the oral cavity for sucking.

Where is the mouth?

The mouth is in the head of all mammals – including humans – and represents the upper end of the digestive tract. In the rear area is the transition to the pharynx, which merges into the esophagus and trachea.

What problems can the mouth cause?

Numerous health problems can occur in the mouth related to the mucous membrane, teeth, gums and/or lips. Aphthae – painful, small inflammations, for example, are particularly common. They can affect the gums, the oral cavity, the tonsils and also the tongue. With a weakened immune system, a fungal infection of the mucous membrane caused by Candida species develops. The medical term for this is candidiasis (candidiasis). The so-called cold sores (“fever blisters”) can develop on the lips due to herpes simplex viruses – painful, itchy blisters. If the herpes viruses attack the mucous membrane in the mouth , doctors speak of so-called mouth rot.

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