What Is the Oral Cavity?

The oral cavity begins at the lips and extends back to the beginning of the tonsils. The bones of the lower jaw (mandible) and upper jaw (hard palate) are included in this region.

The oral cavity also includes:

  • The floor of the mouth, situated directly behind the lower teeth in what looks like a smooth gutter
  • The front two-thirds of the tongue
  • The specialized muscles underneath the front two-thirds of the tongue that provide movement to the tongue
  • The retromolar trigone — last part of the oral cavity just behind the back molars in the lower jaw

The oral cavity has numerous functions. One is to hold food and saliva in the mouth without drooling. Once foods are prepared for swallowing, your tongue and mouth push the food back toward the esophagus for digestion.

The specialized lining of your mouth as well as the many saliva glands provide lubrication, which aids in speech, swallowing, and the digestion of food. Without a properly functioning oral cavity, your ability to speak would not be possible.

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Second Life after Tongue Cancer

Prior to coming to Mount Sinai, other physicians told Karen she would have open jaw surgery for her tongue cancer and a feeding tube. Neither was necessary. After surgery with Dr. Teng, she was back to work in three weeks. "She gave me a second life," says Karen. Read more