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Dental Anatomy and Development of the Mouth

It is important to have knowledge of the anatomy and development of your teeth and mouth in order to maintain good oral health. By understanding normal mouth development and learning to recognize abnormal conditions, you will be able to maintain good oral hygiene and spot the early warning signs of problems or disease. Early intervention can make a big difference in correcting health issues before they become a major problem. This resource guide offers helpful links to the anatomy and development of the teeth and mouth and offers insights into what the mouth and teeth do to assist in digestion.


The formation of the anatomy of the mouth takes place in the early stages of fetal development. The mouth is important not only in speech and as a receptacle for food but also plays an important part in the digestive system. The normal anatomy of the mouth includes the oral cavity, which is composed of the hard and soft palates; the mucosa, or tissues lining the upper and lower sections of the mouth as well as the tissues lining the inner cheeks; the gingiva, or gums, surrounding the teeth; as well as the tongue, uvula, tonsils, and salivary gland openings. The small bands of tissue that run from the top and sides of the oral cavity to the inner cheek and both upper and lower lip tissues are called the frenum. As for the teeth themselves, they consist of layers: The outermost layer is the enamel, followed by the dentin and the pulp. Inside the pulp are the nerves and blood vessels that lead down into the root.


The formation of the mouth and teeth takes place within the first 6-8 weeks of fetal development and can be influenced by any number of environmental and genetic factors. Normal tooth development takes place over a number of years: By the time a baby is born, their primary teeth are already present in their jawbones, but while the permanent teeth will also start to develop before birth, they usually won’t start to emerge until around age 6. It is important to monitor early tooth development and maintain good tooth and oral hygiene throughout all stages of life for optimal oral health. It is a common misconception that loss of teeth is an expected part of the aging process: With an understanding of mouth and tooth development, it is possible to maintain healthy teeth for life!

What the Mouth and Teeth Do

Digestion and sound modification may not be the first things that come to mind as you consider what it is that your mouth and teeth do. But parts of the mouth help with these functions. While the salivary glands are not a part of the oral cavity, they work with the teeth and tongue to mix saliva with food for digestion. And the tongue enables us to form different letter sounds depending on how it interacts with the lips, teeth and palate, allowing us to communicate through talking.

Problems and Disorders of the Mouth

As you learn about normal mouth anatomy and development, it is equally important that you become familiar with some of the problems and disorders of the mouth. While some disorders, such as cleft palate, cannot be prevented, there are ways to lower the risk of oral cancer as well as more common problems such as gingivitis, pericoronitis, which is the inflammation of tissue surrounding the wisdom teeth, or serious periodontal disease that can lead to premature tooth loss. Poor oral hygiene has been connected to an increased risk for heart disease. Other health conditions, such as diabetes, may increase your risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease. As you brush and floss daily, it is important to examine your mouth, tongue and gums for any changes and report any concerns to your doctor or dentist. Early recognition and treatment of any problems will greatly improve your chances of avoiding complications and obtaining the best outcome from treatment options.

Problems and Disorders of the Teeth

Many of the common problems and disorders of the teeth can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene on a consistent basis and getting regular dental exams. The wisdom teeth are the ones most likely to cause problems with impaction or infections. Malocclusion, such as overcrowding of the teeth, is another disorder requiring professional intervention. Sensitive teeth are an issue for many, and treatment depends on the cause. And even a bad habit like grinding your teeth, which man seem like a minor annoyance can be a real problem: The constant wear on your teeth can lead to the breakdown of the tooth surface, jaw pain, and even broken or chipped teeth. Your dentist can offer you tips and options to help you maintain healthy teeth for life.

Science Projects and Experiments

There are numerous options to explore oral health through science projects and experiments. Science fairs are held at local schools as well as at the state and regional levels across the country. The following links are offered as resources to get your creative juices flowing. Take a look here and then discuss ideas with friends, teachers and others who have already taken part in such experiments. Many young people have discovered a lifetime passion for careers in the health and science fields as a result of participation in school-sponsored science projects.

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