Why Are the Mouth and Teeth Important?
Every time we smile, frown, talk, or eat, we use our mouths and teeth. Our mouths and teeth let us make different facial expressions, form words, eat, drink, and begin the process of digestion.
The mouth is essential for speech. With the lips and tongue, teeth help form words by controlling airflow out of the mouth. The tongue strikes the teeth or the roof of the mouth as some sounds are made.
When we eat, our teeth tear, cut, and grind food in preparation for swallowing. The tongue helps push food to the teeth, and allows us to taste the food we eat.
What Do the Parts of the Mouth Do?
The mouth is lined with moist mucous membranes. The membrane-covered roof of the mouth is called the palate:
⦁ The front part consists of a bony portion called the hard palate. The hard palate divides the mouth and the nasal cavity above.
⦁ The fleshy rear part is called the soft palate. The soft palate forms a curtain between the mouth and the throat, or pharynx, to the rear. When we swallow, the soft palate closes off the nasal passages from the throat to prevent food from entering the nose.
The soft palate contains the uvula, the dangling flesh at the back of the mouth. The tonsils are on either side of the uvula and look like twin pillars holding up the opening to the throat, or pharynx (FAR-inks).
A bundle of muscles extends from the floor of the mouth to form the tongue. The top of the tongue is covered with tiny bumps called papillae. These contain tiny pores that are our taste buds. Four main kinds of taste buds are found on the tongue - they sense sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes.
During chewing, salivary glands in the walls and floor of the mouth secrete saliva, which moistens the food and helps break it down even more. Saliva makes it easier to chew and swallow foods (especially dry foods), and contains enzymes that help begin the digestion of foods.
Once food is a soft, moist mass, it's pushed to the back of the mouth and the throat to be swallowed.