The mouth is the largest opening into the human body, it comprises the lips, teeth, gum, alveolar bone, mucosal, Salivary glands, tongue etc. Almost all the materials that enter the body go through the mouth. The study of the mouth, the conditions affecting it and the management and maintenance of its function is called dentistry.

However, the mouth, or oral cavity, is an oval-shaped opening in the lower part of the face. It begins at the lips and stops at the throat. It is crucial to numerous body functions; like breathing, speaking, chewing, swallowing, expressing affection and digesting food. It is also useful for manipulation and defence.

Furthermore, the mouth is part of the digestive system. The mouth enables air, food water and medication to pass into the stomach. The inner lining of the mouth is called the mucosa.

Moreover, in a healthful mouth, the tissues should be moist, pink in colour, odour-free and pain-free. Tooth brushing twice daily, flossing once daily and visiting a dentist every 6 months help to keep the mouth healthy.

Functions of the mouth

The mouth is involved in various vital functions of the body like;

  • Breathing.
  • Chewing.
  • Digesting foods and drinks.
  • Drinking.
  • Swallowing.
  • Talking.
  • Tasting.
  • Expressing emotions; crying and laughing.
  • Expressing affection; kissing or pecking.
  • Defending against assault.
  • Aesthetics; the mouth amplifies beauty.
  • Manipulation; the jungle man used it as a tool.

Parts of the mouth

The following are parts of the mouth;

  • Cheeks; this is the boundary between the teeth and the outside. It consist of skin, muscle, mucosal and space.
  • Lips; this is the front seal of the mouth which keep food, water and saliva from leaking out. It also help in speaking and keeping the teeth in position.
  • Hard palate; the palate is the roof of the mouth, it separates the mouth from the nose area. It is made of bone, muscle and mucosa.
  • Alveolar bone; this is the bone that anchor the teeth to the jaws.
  • Gum; it covers and protects the sensitive part of the teeth and its surrounding bone. ( alveolar bone )
  • Teeth; there are 32 teeth in adult and 20 in the infant that are used for crushing, tearing and cutting food.
  • Tongue; the tongue is a strong muscular tissue in the floor of the mouth that contains taste buds. It helps in mixing the food in the mouth while chewing and helps in speaking and swallowing also. Tastebuds are special cells mostly found on the tongue but are also present at the back of the mouth. They help sense flavours and tastes (sweet, salty, sour, and bitter)
  • Mucosal; this is the inner lining of the mouth.
  • Salivary glands; are cells that keep the mouth moist and wet by producing saliva. There are major and minor salivary glands.
  •  Sensory receptors; are located throughout the mouth and they help to sense the temperature and texture of foods and drinks.
  • Uvula; this is the piece of flesh hanging in the back of the soft palate, it helps move food from the mouth into the throat.

Appearance of a healthy mouth

In a healthful mouth, the tissues are pink, firm and moist. If the mouth is healthy, the breath will be relatively fresh however, food can affect the breath.

Healthy gum should be firm and pink, not red or white. They should not be swollen or sore. Teeth should be firmly planted in the gums, not wiggly. It should not hurt to chew or brush your teeth.

A healthy mouth will not have any bumps, flaps, gaps or rough patches.

Diseases of the mouth

Health problems in the mouth come in different shades and colours, the following are oral diseases;

  • Bad breath (halitosis).
  • Cleft lip and palate.
  • Cold sores 
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia).
  • Infections.
  • Oral cancer.
  • Tongue issues, such as a cracked, coated or discolored surface, beefy tongue, sore tongue, tongue tie etc.
  • Trauma or injury.
  • Problems with your teeth, such as a buildup of dental plaque, tooth decay, impacted molar or teeth, tooth fracture etc.
  • Problems with the gums, such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Speech problems (for example, a lisp).

Problems with oral health can be a sign that you have another health problem like diabetes mellitus, HIV, syphilis etc. Talk to a healthcare provider or dentist if you have any problems with your oral cavity.

How to keep the mouth healthy

The health of the mouth depend on what you do and what you avoid. There are dos and don’ts in care of the mouth. There are;

  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
  • Brush your teeth, tongue and all around the mouth twice a day. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Drink plenty of water, limiting sugary drinks such as soda.
  • Eat healthy foods, avoiding too much sugar.
  • Floss between your teeth once a day.
  • Visit a dentist twice a year.
  • Avoid clenching.
  • Treatment paranormal oral habit like bruxism, tongue thrushing and fingers sucking.
  • Avoid using the mouth as a tool.

When to see the dentist

Stop by a dentist if you noticed or experience the following;

  • Painful mouth ulcer.
  • Painless ulcer.
  • Burning mouth.
  • Bleeding gum with or without pain.
  • Multiple mouth ulcers in children with associated fever, bad breath and loss of appetite.
  • Bad breath.
  • Loose teeth (in adult, permanent teeth).
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sudden swelling of the face with or without pain.
  • Recurrent pain from impacted teeth.
  • Toothache that disturbs activities.
  • Inability to close the mouth.
  • Inability to open the mouth.
  • Broken jaw.
  • Inability to chew.
  • Multiple broken teeth.
  • Retained milk teeth.

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