A group of friends smiling and talking at a restaurant.

Parts of the Mouth and Their Functions

Eating, speaking, breathing, digesting food, and smiling. Your mouth does it all and then some. It has many components working together. Some more intricate than others. Here’s all that it takes to make your mouth work.

Lips and Cheeks

This dynamic duo is made up of strong muscles. They allow you to smile, frown, kiss and speak. They help you chew, blow bubbles, and breathe. They also act as a guide in keeping your teeth in the right place.

Tongue

The next time you say, “That’s delicious!” you can thank your tongue for that. It, along with other parts of your mouth, is home to about 10,000 taste buds – giving you the chance to taste sweet, savory, salty, and bitter flavors. Your tongue has more than one job, though; it also helps with speaking, chewing, and swallowing.

Teeth, Gums, and Alveolar Bone

Here’s something to smile about and with: Your teeth. They are made of hard enamel and have roots connecting them to your jawbone. The alveolar bone surrounds the roots and helps keep your teeth in place. Your gums hold everything together, protecting both your teeth and their roots from decay.

Salivary Glands

No big surprise here, your salivary glands are responsible for producing (you got it) saliva. This helps break down food to begin the digestive process and puts moisture in your mouth so you can speak, chew, and swallow. Saliva also helps prevent cavities and gum disease because it repeatedly washes bacteria from your teeth and gums. You have three paired main salivary glands and hundreds of minor ones. Your salivary glands play a big part in helping you chew, swallow, and maintain proper oral hygiene. They are located in your head and neck. The three major glands include two parotid glands (the largest), two submandibular glands, and two sublingual glands. The minor salivary glands are located throughout your oral cavity including, cheeks, mouth, palate, and even your sinuses.

Temporomandibular Joint

Your temporomandibular joints allow you to open and close your mouth, move your lower jaw forward as well as side to side. These two joints also assist you in talking, chewing, and swallowing.

Keeping Your Oral Cavity Healthy

A healthy oral hygiene routine. This is also an important part of your mouth, and it’s up to you to keep it working. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss (also referred to as interdental cleaning). Keep up with routine visits with your dental professionals.

There’s so much more to your mouth than your beautiful smile. It has many components working together. It’s a point where nourishment enters and laughter exits. Taking care of all of the things that make up your mouth inevitably means you're taking better care of yourself.

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