You brush your teeth, floss every day, use mouthwash, and stay hydrated, all to take care of your teeth. But how much do you know about how your mouth works? Understanding that will improve your ability to protect your oral health. To help, here’s a guide to the various parts of the mouth and their functions.
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)
Located just beside either ear there are small joints that serve as the pivot point for the jaw. These “temporomandibular joints,” or TMJ, anchor the mandible to the skull. These joints need to remain perfectly aligned with one another for the jaw to function properly. Misalignment—usually resulting from chronic teeth grinding or traumatic injury—can cause pain when eating or speaking.
A nice jawline doesn’t just make you look good—it’s the foundation of everything your mouth does. Between supporting your teeth and protecting other soft tissue, your mandible might not get enough credit for everything it does for you.
One of the most common nightmares people have is of their teeth suddenly falling out of their mouth. Without your alveolar bones, that would become a reality. These bones surround your teeth and secure them to your jaw. Advanced gum disease can cause alveolar bone decay, leading to tooth loss.
Finally, something in your mouth that you can see. Your gums surround the alveolar bones, containing your teeth and protecting their root tissue. They’re the most common point of infection in the mouth, with over 50% of adults having some form of gum disease.
There are six of these located under the tongue and behind the jaw and, as the name suggests, their job is to generate saliva. This saliva breaks down food for digestion, then carries it into the stomach. If you become dehydrated, your salivary glands are hampered, causing plaque buildup and digestive issues.
From tasting food to talking with friends, your tongue facilitates all the best things in life. It’s coated with thousands of taste buds, each of which is incredibly sensitive. Your tongue can also become a nest for bacteria, so brushing it daily is crucially important to oral health.
Of course, this isn’t a complete guide to every part of the mouth; you’d need years of dental school to fully understand that. That said, hopefully now you have a better idea of what your mouth does and how important all of its functions are.
About the Author
If you asked his patients, they would say that Dr. Mike Asay’s greatest strength as a dentist is that he genuinely cares about them. He works hard to make everyone who visits his office feel at ease, and he takes time to personalize his care to his patients. Dr. Asay is a graduate of the Baylor College of Dentistry, and he’s a proud member of both the American Dental Association and the Texas Dental Association. If you have any questions about how your mouth works, he can be reached at his website or by phone at (512) 244-2796.