You may not realize it, but if you take a peek inside your mouth, there are a number of pretty cool pieces of anatomy taking up space in there! There’s that funky thing that hangs down near the rear of your mouth and dangles over your tongue called the uvula, then you’ve got your tonsils and adenoids which serve as your body’s first line of defense against infection. And, of course, your tongue, which is so unique it’s as individual as a person’s fingerprint. Oh, and let’s not forget your salivary glands, which fire up your body’s digestive system when food is near! Wanna’ learn more?
- Uvula: To some, a uvula is one of those serves little, if any, true purpose. But, it is there for a reason – mainly to work in conjunction with the soft palate (the soft tissue that constitutes the back of the roof of the mouth) to keep food and beverages out of our nasal passage. It also helps protect against accidental chocking by stimulating our gag reflex, and aids (in some parts of the world) in the formation of certain tones for speech. They also come in all shapes and sizes (round, elongated, pointy, and even bifurcated). That’s a lot of neat stuff for such an inconsequential piece of flesh!While rare, some individuals choose to have their uvula pierced (ouch!), and some choose to have it removed or shortened, because an excessively long uvula can contribute to sleep apnea and/or snoring issues.
- Tonsils and Adenoids: These two groupings of lymphatic tissue help protect your body from infection. They’re literally your body’s first line of defense against illness brought in by the air you breathe or the food you eat. Their physical design, however, can make them prone to contribute to illness because of all their crypts and pits. These crevices are designed to catch and kill off infection, but sometimes they get clogged – and, that can lead to recurrent tonsillitis. Either way, doctors these days tend to want to keep them in place instead of have them removed, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Tongue: Ah, your tongue! It’s the strongest muscle in your body, and the only muscle attached at a single end. It comes in all shapes and sizes, and is generally a nice pink hue. It helps us taste, speak and eat. Take care of your tongue and it will take care of you. Your tongue can experience all sorts of weirdness as well. It can go through color fluctuations due to illness, and it can get super-bumpy, super-smooth, or patchy (as with geographic tongue). It can even get furry! Your tongue can also be the source of good (and bad) breath, and is susceptible to cancer like many other tissues in the body.
- Salivary Glands: Have you ever had a tingly, slightly painful sensation in your mouth and cheeks at the very moment you begin to consume food? Well, oftentimes, that feeling is your salivary glands literally “firing up” after sitting dormant for awhile between meals. It’s a funky feeling, right? Like your tongue, the three major pairs of salivary glands you have are pretty darn important. There are also hundreds of secondary salivary glands that populate your mouth, making your oral cavity a bit of a party-place for saliva. And, that’s a good thing, because saliva helps protect our teeth, aids in the consumption and breakdown of food, and generally lubricates your mouth. Salivary glands can also experience problems – they can be clogged by calcium deposits, can experience a weakness of function and can develop tumors (both benign and cancerous). Like most of the anatomy of your mouth, however, salivary glands go on doing their work without a single moment of interruption.