The mouth , also known as the oral cavity or oral cavity, constitutes the first phase of the digestive system (it is where the intestinal tract begins), this is why it is a vital part of humans and animals, because in addition to being able to ingest food, it helps to produce sounds, speech and is a channel through which you can breathe if the nose is blocked.

It is a fundamental part of the human body, which is located in the head, specifically in the lower part of the face. It is a cavity made up of hard parts, such as teeth, and softer parts, such as the palate, tongue and lips.

Learn more about its function and the organs that compose it below.

What is the main function of the mouth?

It works in three main functions of the organism, initiates the digestion process (salivation, chewing and swallowing), participates in the respiratory system (when breathing through the mouth and not through the nose) and during speech (forming words to communicate with each other). and emitting sounds from the vocal cords), among others.

In order to delve a little deeper into these processes, their functions can be determined as follows:

The mouth in the digestive system

Both the mouth and the teeth play an important role in the digestion process, becoming one of the first steps in this process.

This begins when the digestive enzymes in saliva moisten the mouth and mix, tearing and crushing the ingested food, while the tongue helps to press the food against the teeth.

When food is nothing more than a moist and soft mass, it is when it is finally swallowed in the pharynx and swallowed, all this while the soft palate does its job as well, closing the nasal passage so that the food does not enter the nose when it goes down the throat.

The mouth in the respiratory system

The mouth becomes the conduit between the outside of the body and the pharynx, which is the cavity that connects the larynx and nose with the oral cavity, which is why it becomes part of respiration when, for example, we have to breathe through the mouth, if we have to cover our nose or it is difficult for us to breathe through this duct for any reason.

The mouth in speech or language

It plays a fundamental role in oral expression, the movements and shapes of the mouth, they are the ones that, together with the lips, emit sounds and form the syllables that develop from the vocal cords.

In the same way, the tongue acquires prominence, because, thanks to the combination between it, the teeth and the lips, words can be structured, producing the blow or friction between them so that the sounds are achieved.

The mouth in aesthetics and physical appearance

The mouth is responsible for performing very important functions for human beings and among those are also facial expressions, which is the first thing people see when they meet, since together with the teeth it is the one that forms the smile, achieving that aspect nice on the face.

The mouth in the social function of people

The lips function as a sensitive focus, which we also use to show affection, as a social expression of greeting, courtship, respect or love through kisses. By pressing our lips against the skin of another person, we are exerting a natural social function in humans that determine the way we relate to our environment, closest social circle or family.

Parts of the mouth, structure and organs

In the oral cavity there are different organs that are responsible for ensuring that it is part of each of the processes, thanks to the way it is structured, as we will detail below:

Mucous membranes

They are responsible for covering and protecting the inside of the cavity, producing the mucus that keeps it moist, being as important as the skin that covers and protects the body.

The palate

The upper area of ​​the oral cavity is thus known, which is covered by a membrane and which is structured in two ways.

First there is the soft palate, which is that fleshy part that is at the end as a kind of curtain that forms between the mouth and the throat, where the uvula is also located, that small bell that hangs at the end of the mouth.

On the other hand, there is the bony portion or hard palate, which is in the front part, just above and is the one that separates the mouth from the nose.

The tonsils

They are small glands that are made up of two thin folds of lymphatic tissue, one in front and the other behind, where the tonsils are located between them, located at the end from the soft palate to the roof of the tongue, one on each side of the uvula , forming as a pair of identical pillars, also called pillars of the jaws, which are at the beginning or opening of the pharynx.


At the base of the oral cavity there is a group of muscles that form the tongue, which is used to taste and unite all the food we eat. It is not completely smooth, on its cover there are tiny bumps or reliefs where the four types of taste buds are housed, in charge of capturing and identifying the taste of food, detecting bitter, sour, sweet and salty flavors.

The salivary glands

The walls and base of the oral cavity house three pairs of these glands, the sublingual, submaxillary and parotid glands, which are the ones that produce and secrete saliva through small ducts, transferring the so-called amylase, the digestive enzyme that begins the process of decomposing food, even if it has not passed through the esophagus or reached the stomach.

The gums

They are soft tissues that naturally have a light pink color and cover the teeth gently from the neck to the bone, fitting perfectly around each one of them, closing the periodontal area between the tooth root and the alveolar surface.


They are one of the hardest and strongest parts of the body, being extremely necessary to achieve the chewing process when food is ingested, it is the moment in which when ingesting food, they are responsible for cutting, tearing and preparing them for swallowing . In the absence of them, you could only eat food, crushed or soft, and maintain a liquid diet.

The lips

These connect internally with the gums, covered with slippery mucous on the inside and skin on the outside, moving freely thanks to the orbicularis muscle that is responsible for their movements. The lips bleed easily when injured, due to the underlying blood vessels and this is where their natural reddish coloration comes from.

Oral diseases

There are oral conditions and ailments that may be more frequent and common than others, among which they can be mentioned are:

Oral herpes

It is when painful vesicles in the form of clusters appear inside the oral cavity, which can become ulcerative or vesicular herpes, also occurring on the lips and infecting anyone with this infection when they have direct contact, such as by kissing.


It is mainly an inflammation that occurs inside one or some salivary glands.

Mouth cancer

It is strongly linked to smoking, since it is what mainly causes squamous cell carcinoma to form within the oral cavity.

Enteroviral stomatitis

This type of infection is quite frequent, it occurs when small and painful ulcers form inside the mouth, which reduces the appetite and the desire to drink fluids, exposing the sufferer to dehydration.


It is the most common periodontal disease, it is an inflammation of the gums that causes swelling and redness, sometimes leading to bleeding, it is usually generated by the accumulation of tartar when you do not brush or floss properly.


It occurs when gingivitis is not treated in time, causing the loss of teeth, by loosening the gums around them, forming accumulations of pus and bacteria.


To prevent disorders or diseases that may occur in the mouth, daily care, adequate oral and dental hygiene are important to be able to enjoy optimal health, you should only maintain a healthy diet and brush your teeth daily after each meal, to thus obtain a clean and disease-free oral cavity.

It is also important to bear in mind that dental check-ups with the specialist must be regular, in order to detect any anomaly that may arise in time.

Samantha Robson
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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