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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 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. 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 can is made audible.

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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. 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.

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. 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 and the ascending pharyngeal artery. The floor of the oral cavity is supplied by the facial artery, the ascending palatine artery, the submental artery and the lingual artery. The venous drainage of the palate and the floor of the oral cavity occurs via the greater and lesser palatine veins and the sphenopalatine vein, the lingual vein, the submental vein and the pharyngeal plexus. The maxillary teeth are supplied by the maxillary artery, the superior alveolar artery, the middle superior alveolar artery and the posterior superior alveolar artery. The mandibular teeth are supplied by the inferior alveolar artery, the mental artery and the incisive artery. 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 and the inferior alveolar vein.


As with the blood supply, only the main regions and branches that supply them will be mentioned here. The palate is innervated via the maxillary nerve, the nasopalatine nerve, the greater palatine nerve, the lesser palatine nerve and the glossopharyngeal nerve. The floor of the oral cavity is innervated through the lingual nerve, the glossopharyngeal nerve, the internal laryngeal nerve and the chorda tympani. 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 and the posterior superior alveolar nerve. The sensory innervation of the mandibular teeth is supplied by the mandibular nerve, the inferior alveolar nerve, the mental nerve and the incisive nerve.


There are hundreds of pathological conditions that can affect the oral cavity and can be seen in all ages, sexes and races. The disorders are both inherited and acquired. Due to the extent of the list of diseases, an example of an acquired and an inherited disease will be mentioned. Firstly, an example of a common birth defect would be a cleft palate. This occurs due to the lack of fusion between the palatine shelves during facial development of the fetus. It is treated by extensive surgery and long term rehabilitation. Secondly, an example of an acquired disease of the oral cavity would be a candida infection. This fungal infections inhabits the mouth due to many reasons, but mostly bad hygiene. It is treated with topical antifungal medication and a strict oral health regime.

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Show 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.


Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska


  • Oral cavity - Begoña Rodriguez
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