Oral Complex

The oral complex consists of the structures commonly known together as the mouth. It takes in and initially processes food items. See figure 6-2.

Figure 6-2. Anatomy of the oral complex.

(1) A tooth (figure 6-3) has two main parts--the crown and the root. A root canal passes up through the central part of the tooth. The root is suspended within a socket (called the alveolus) of one of the jaws of the mouth. The crown extends up above the surface of the jaw. The root and inner part of the crown are made of a substance called dentin. The outer portion of the crown is covered with a substance known as enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance of the human body. The nerves and blood vessels of the tooth pass up into the root canal from the jaw substance.

Figure 6-3. Section of a tooth and jaw.

(2) There are two kinds of teeth-- anterior and posterior. The anterior teeth are also known as incisors and canine teeth. The anterior teeth serve as choppers. They chop off mouth-size bites of food items. The posterior teeth are called molars. They are grinders. They increase the surface area of food materials by breaking them into smaller and smaller particles.

(3) Humans have two sets of teeth--deciduous and permanent. Initially, the deciduous set includes 20 baby teeth.

DECIDUOUS = to be shed

These are eventually replaced by a permanent set of 32.

b. Jaws. There are two jaws--the upper and the lower. The upper is called the maxilla. The lower is called the mandible.

(1) In each jaw, there are sockets for the teeth. These sockets are known as alveoli. The bony parts of the jaws holding the teeth are known as alveolar ridges.

(2) The upper jaw is fixed to the base of the cranium.

The lower jaw is movable. There is a special articulation (T-MJ--temporo-mandibular joint) with muscles to bring the upper and lower teeth together to perform their functions.

c. Palate. The palate serves as the roof of the mouth and the floor of the nasal chamber above. Since the anterior two-thirds is bony, it is called the hard palate. The posterior one-third is musculo-membranous and is called the soft palate. The soft palate serves as a trap door to close off the upper respiratory passageway during swallowing.

d. Lips and Cheeks. The oral cavity is closed by a fleshy structure around the opening. Forming the opening are the lips. On the sides are the cheeks.

e. Tongue. The tongue is a muscular organ. The tongue is capable of internal movement to shape its body. It is moved as a whole by muscles outside the tongue. Interaction between the tongue and cheeks keeps the food between the molar teeth during the chewing process. When the food is properly processed, the tongue also initiates the swallowing process.

f. Salivary Glands. Digestion is a chemical process which takes place at the wet surfaces of food materials. The chewing process has greatly increased the surface area available. The surfaces are wetted by saliva produced by glands in the oral cavity. Of these glands, three pairs are known as the salivary glands proper.

g. Taste Buds. Associated with the tongue and the back of the mouth are special clumps of cells known as taste buds. These taste buds literally taste the food. That is, they check its quality and acceptability.

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