Dental literature tends to focus primarily on the teeth and gums. Proper oral hygiene rests primarily on maintaining the health of these two important parts of your mouth. Most oral health issues reflect most dramatically in your teeth and gums. There is more to your mouth than these two elements, however. In the spirit of patient education, we think understanding the total anatomy of your oral cavity is important. The mouth works as a whole, and certain parts are especially important in preserving the health of your teeth and gums.
General Anatomy of the Mouth
While some parts do not affect your teeth and gums as much as others, certain parts are essential to preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Other parts often display symptoms of diseases such as oral cancer, providing important diagnostic clues for dentists. The general anatomy of your mouth includes the teeth, gums, hard palate, soft palate, uvula, salivary glands, tongue, and lips.
The teeth are by far the most important part of your mouth because they define its shape, serve its most useful function, and contribute to the overall aesthetic of your face. Each tooth has a different function, but they all serve the same purpose: processing food for digestion. Your gums are also very important because they protect the roots of your teeth where they attach to the jawbone. Oral bacteria can cause infections in the gums that lead to gum disease. Symptoms of gum disease include swelling and chronic bleeding. If left unchecked, gum disease can lead to tooth and bone loss.
Moving back towards the throat, the hard and soft palates divide your oral cavity from your nasal passages. The hard palate is located near the front of your mouth and the soft palate separates the mouth from the throat. The soft palate also contains the uvula, which is that little piece of dangling flesh in the back of your mouth. Both palates and the uvula often display early signs of oral cancer and you should keep a careful eye on these parts when checking for symptoms of disease.
There are three major salivary glands in your mouth that produce saliva, which serves the key function of washing food particles from your mouth and neutralizing acid that causes enamel erosion. Dry mouth is a condition where a patient produces only small amounts of saliva. This particular condition leads to a number of oral health issues, including tooth decay, bacterial infection, and gum disease.
The tongue contains tiny little bumps called taste buds. These allow you to taste the food you eat. The tongue is also an essential element of speech. The tongue and lips also display symptoms of specific oral diseases and infections such as late stages of oral cancer and fungal infections related to dry mouth and diabetes.
Schedule an Appointment
Total care of your mouth is essential in the maintenance of your oral health. To learn more about how to take care of your total mouth, schedule an appointment with Dr. James Stewart by calling our Livonia, MI dentist office at (734) 425-4400. We proudly serve patients from Livonia, Novi, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Dearborn, and the surrounding areas.