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The Anatomy of Your Mouth

Many times when you’re in the dental office, we may refer to parts of your mouth with anatomical terms. To help you understand what you’re hearing, here are some that you may hear at the dental office.


Palate is the roof of your mouth. Your palate has two parts: Your hard palate is at the front and is made of bone; your soft palate is behind the hard palate and is soft tissue. Both the hard and soft palate aid in breathing, swallowing, and speech. The hard palate is often covered by an upper removable appliance such as a denture. For some people this can activate the gag reflex.


If the bones of hard palate do not close before birth, a cleft palate results. Many cleft palates can be repaired with surgery. If cleft palates need to be blocked before surgical repair or if surgical repair was not performed, a removable device called an obturator may be needed to allow for eating and swallowing.


Your soft palate helps close off nasal passages during swallowing and closes off the airway when required (like during sneezing). (A fun fact: crocodiles can also do this.) Your soft palate has salivary glands and taste buds. (Another fun fact: this is origin of good food being considered “palatable”) And if you want to stun your friends, you can use the word arachibutyrophobia (ah-rack-ih-byou-tie-rho-fo-bee-ah) which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to your palate!


As for your teeth, there are four types of teeth in human mouths:

  • Incisors (the front four teeth)
  • Canines (aka eyeteeth or cuspids) which are the corner tooth
  • Bicuspids or premolars. They get there name from having two cusps and being in front of the molars
  • Molars (wisdom teeth are actually third molars)


Each tooth has a root (which is the part normally covered by your gums) and a crown (which is the part you normally see—the part above the gumline). This is not to be confused with restorative crowns which cover the natural crown of the tooth. Crowns of the teeth are important for grinding and tearing food.


The root of your tooth is embedded in the jawbone and provides the base or support for your tooth. The center of your tooth (pulp) contains the nerves and blood vessels. The pulp can become diseased or injured by a deep cavity or bruxism (grinding and clenching) or trauma.


All these anatomical areas are things that your dentist checks during your dental visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed this anatomical tour of your mouth.


Note: This article is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare providers.


Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees both children and adults in her office. She is taking new patients.


1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd.

Lorain, OH 44053

www.drjrobb.com                  www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb