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Oral Cavity

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Oral Cavity

The oral cavity is an internal area of the head that is created by the bony space between the base of the skull and its connection to the mandible via the temporomandibular joint. This cavity is lined with various types of epithelium and contains many anatomical structures that are necessary for the proper function of the mouth.

Recommended video: Overview of the oral cavity
The oral cavity is the first part of the digestive system.

It is the entrance to the alimentary canal, the area in which the first stages of digestion occur through mastication, and due to the movements of the inner and adjacent structures such as the tongue, the lips and the teeth, the spoken word is made audible.

Borders

Anteriorly, the teeth limit the oral cavity proper. The space between the lips and the teeth is not strictly considered to be part of the oral cavity, but is known rather as the vestibule, which runs around the tooth arches so that laterally it is limited also by the bucca.

Oral vestibule - ventral view

Within the oral cavity proper the medial side of the dental arch continues to act as a wall, while superiorly the hard palate and soft palate from anterior to posterior respectively form the roof of the cavity. Inferiorly the tongue and below it the floor of the mouth with its many appendages make up an unstable and moveable base. Posteriorly, the cavity continues into the larynx and the pharynx, with the tonsils marking the end of the cavity proper and the tip of the soft palate curving slightly downwards.

Oral cavity proper - ventral view

Blood Supply

The oral cavity is extremely well vascularized and so explaining the intricacies of each vessel and which portion of an area it supplies will be left for another time. For now, a list of branches contributing to a general area will be included, including those that assist in the venous drainage of that specific area.

Palate

The palate is supplied by: 

  • the maxillary artery
  • the sphenopalatine artery
  • the greater palatine artery
  • the lesser palatine artery
  • the facial artery
  • the ascending palatine artery
  • the ascending pharyngeal artery

Greater palatine artery - medial view

Floor

The floor of the oral cavity is supplied by:

  • the facial artery
  • the ascending palatine artery
  • the submental artery
  • the lingual artery

Lingual artery - lateral-left view

The venous drainage of the palate and the floor of the oral cavity occurs via:

  • the greater and lesser palatine veins
  • the sphenopalatine vein
  • the lingual vein
  • the submental vein
  • the pharyngeal plexus

Maxillary Teeth

The maxillary teeth are supplied by:

  • the maxillary artery
  • the superior alveolar artery
  • the middle superior alveolar artery
  • the posterior superior alveolar artery

Posterior superior alveolar artery - lateral-left view

Mandibular Teeth

The mandibular teeth are supplied by:

  • the inferior alveolar artery
  • the mental artery
  • the incisive artery

Inferior alveolar artery - lateral-left view

The venous drainage of the maxillary and mandibular teeth occurs via:

  • the anterior superior alveolar vein
  • the middle superior alveolar vein
  • the posterior superior alveolar vein
  • the inferior alveolar vein

Innervation

As with the blood supply, only the main regions and branches that supply them will be mentioned here.

Palate

The palate is innervated via:

Greater palatine nerve - medial view

Floor

The floor of the oral cavity is innervated through:

  • the lingual nerve
  • the glossopharyngeal nerve
  • the internal laryngeal nerve
  • the chorda tympani

Lingual nerve - lateral-left view

Maxillary Teeth

The sensory innervation of the maxillary teeth occurs through:

  • the maxillary nerve
  • the infraorbital nerve
  • the anterior superior alveolar nerve
  • the middle superior alveolar nerve
  • the posterior superior alveolar nerve

Middle superior alveolar nerve - lateral-left view

Mandibular Teeth

The sensory innervation of the mandibular teeth is supplied by:

  • the mandibular nerve
  • the inferior alveolar nerve
  • the mental nerve
  • the incisive nerve

Mandibular nerve - lateral-left view

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Show references

References:

  • Neil S. Norton, Ph.D. and Frank H. Netter, MD, Netter’s Head and Neck Anatomy for Dentistry, 2nd Edition, Elsevier Saunders, Chapter 1 Development of the Head and Neck, Page 23 and Chapter 13 Oral Cavity, Page 326 to 378.
  • Frank H. Netter, Atlas der Anatomie, 5th Edition (Bilingual Edition: English and German), Saunders, Kapitel 1, Tafel 51 and 52.
  • G. Laskaris, Pocket Atlas of Oral Diseases, Second Edition, Thieme Flexibook - Clinical Sciences, Chapter 1 White Lesions, Pages 18 and 19.

Author:

Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska

Illustrators:

  • Oral vestibule - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • Oral cavity proper - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • Greater palatine artery - medial view - Begoña Rodriguez
  • Lingual artery - lateral-left view - Begoña Rodriguez
  • Posterior superior alveolar artery - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Inferior alveolar artery - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Greater palatine nerve - medial view - Begoña Rodriguez
  • Lingual nerve - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Middle superior alveolar nerve - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
  • Mandibular nerve - lateral-left view - Paul Kim
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