The mouth is also known as the oral cavity or the buccal cavity. It contains structures that assist in the digestive process that include: teeth (see separately), tongue, and salivary glands.
The tongue is a skeletal muscle innervated by:
- hypoglossal cranial nerves (XII)
- sensory nerves for taste VII (facial)
- IX (glossopharyngeal)
The tongue serves two purposes:
- facilitates chewing and swallowing
- allows for senses of taste, touch, and temperature
Under the tongue are two structures:
- the frenulum, a small piece of mucous membrane that anchors the tongue to the floor of the mouth
- an extensive capillary network that provides the sublingual area with a rich supply of blood. It is this area where some medications (sublingual) are placed for better and faster absorption into the blood.
Most of the tongue lies withing the oral cavity, but the base extends into the pharynx.
Salivary glands consist of three pairs of glands:
These glands provide:
- buffers and lubrication
- enzymes (amylase) that begin digestion by converting starch to maltose
- anti-microbials (immunoglobulins [IgA, IgM, IgG], lysozymes, lactoferrins, salivary peroxidases, myeloperoxidases, histatins, amylases and anionic proteins) that help control oral bacteria and yeasts. When these salivary secretions are reduced because of such things as radiation or emotional distress, oral bacterial population explodes causing recurring infections and the progressive erosion of teeth and gums.