Table of contents:
Oral cavity & tongue
The oral cavity and the teeth in it, as well as the tongue, perform many important tasks. They form the beginning of the digestive system and are responsible for chopping, processing and transporting food into the esophagus and on to the stomach. In addition, they also serve language and communication. The oral cavity is delimited by the lips, cheeks, floor of the mouth, the palate, and the uvula and the palatal arches to the side. Around 300 types of bacteria ensure a “normal” oral flora and thus contribute significantly to oral health.
- Continue reading
- more on the subject
- Advice, downloads & tools
- Structure of the oral cavity
- Oral mucosa
- Salivary glands
- Oral flora
Structure of the oral cavity
The oral cavity is divided into two areas:
- Oral vestibule: space between the lips, cheeks and teeth. The large salivary glands (glandulae parotidis) open on both sides above the second upper molar.
- Actual oral cavity: space between teeth, floor of the mouth with the tongue, roof of the mouth and throat area. Small salivary glands open in the area of the floor of the mouth in front of the tongue.
The entire oral cavity is lined with a pink, moist oral mucosa. Since the cells divide particularly quickly and frequently here, wounds in the mouth area usually heal faster than in other parts of the body. Depending on its function, the mucous membrane is thick and strongly keratinized (on the gums and palate) or thin and elastic (on the lips and cheeks, the vestibule and floor of the mouth and the underside of the tongue). Sensory receptors for tactile and temperature sensation are also located in the oral mucosa. The receptors for the sense of taste are also located in the mucous membrane of the tongue surface.
Several salivary glands open into the oral cavity. They produce up to 1.5 liters of saliva per day, the ingredients of which ensure a neutral pH value and an oral environment that is hostile to harmful germs. The saliva moistens and rinses the oral cavity and therefore plays an important role in the self-cleaning of the oral cavity and teeth. In addition, it contributes to the liquefaction and preparation of the food pulp and thus supports digestion. In the saliva there are also those minerals from which the tooth surfaces are built. These play an important role in the regeneration of tooth surfaces after the effects of acid.
Countless microorganisms live in a natural balance in the oral cavity, mainly around 300 types of bacteria and various yeasts. If this is disturbed by internal or external influences, various diseases of the oral cavity can arise. For example, a shift in the balance towards an excess of certain types of bacteria that are always present in the oral cavity can lead to tooth decay or inflammation of the oral mucosa or gums (gingivitis). The intake of antibiotics can lead to a superinfection with yeasts (especially Candida albicans).
The tongue (lingua) takes on important functions in chewing, swallowing, tasting, touching and speaking, but also in the immune system. It consists of several sections:
- Tongue root (tongue base): Located in the rearmost part of the tongue and contains muscle tissue and the tongue tonsils (tonsilla linguae), which are part of the immune system. The root of the tongue is anchored to the hyoid bone, which is attached to both the base of the skull and the larynx with ligaments and muscles.
- Tongue body: Connects to the root of the tongue towards the front and consists of several layers of striated muscles. The mesh-like arrangement of the muscle fibers is responsible for the great mobility and deformability of the tongue. A kind of septum made of tendon fibers runs across the middle of the body of the tongue from front to back.
- Tip of the tongue: Represents the foremost end of the tongue.
- Back of the tongue: Describes the upper outer surface of the tongue.
- Underside of the tongue: is not completely exposed, but has grown together with the oral cavity in its middle part.
- Edge of the tongue : separates the back of the tongue from the underside of the tongue.
- Lingual frenulum: This fold in the lining of the mouth secures the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth, exposing the side edges and tip.
There are two groups of papillae in the lining of the tongue:
- Mechanical papillae: help the tongue to feel tactile.
- Taste papillae: Contain taste buds. These small nerve endings enable us to distinguish between sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (Japanese: umami = palatability). The buds for "sweet" are increasingly in the front area of the tongue, followed by salty, sour and then salty again. The “bitter” sensation is mainly perceived in the back of the tongue. In principle, however, every taste can be perceived in every area of the tongue.
For more information on mouth & esophagus, see Digestive organs.