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"Every patient teaches you something new and important."

Diana Mossop

About The Human Jaw

The jaw is any opposable articulated structure at the entrance of the mouth, typically used for grasping and manipulating food. The term jaws is also broadly applied to the whole of the structures constituting the vault of the mouth and serving to open and close it and is part of the body plan of most animals.

Ball-and-Socket Joints

The most range of movement by the joints is provided by a "ball-and- socket" joint, in which the spherical head of one bone lodges in the spherical cavity of another. In the shoulder joint, the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the socket of the shoulder blade. Because the socket is shallow and the joint loose, the shoulder is the body's most mobile joint. The hip joint is less mobile than the shoulder, but it is more stable. The ball of the femur's head fits tightly into a deep socket in the hip bone. A rim of cartilage lining the socket helps grip the femur firmly; the ligament binding the two bones is among the strongest in the human body.


The thymus is a gland that forms part of the immune system. It is situated in the upper part of the chest, behind the breastbone, and is made up of two lobes that join in front of the trachea. Each lobe is made of lymphoid tissue, consisting of tightly packed white blood cells and fat. The thymus enlarges from about the 12th week of gestation until puberty, when it begins to shrink. Its function is to transform lymphocytes (white blood cells developed in the bone marrow) into T-cells (cells developed in the thymus). These cells are then transported to various lymph glands, where they play an important part in fighting infections and disease. Swelling of lymph glands and fever are a signal that immune cells are multiplying to fight off invaders of the body: bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites. Edward Jenner showed his faith in vaccination by injecting his own son with cowpox, therefore immunizing the child against smallpox, a deadly disease at that time in history


Anchored to the floor of the mouth and slung at the rear from muscles attached to a spiky outgrowth at the base of the skull, the tongue is a strong muscle that is covered by the lingual membrane, which has special areas which detect the flavor of food. The tongue is made up of muscles covered by mucous membranes. These muscles are attached to the lower jaw and to the hyoid bone (a small, U-shaped bone, which lies deep in the muscles at the back of the tongue) above the larynx. There are very small nodules, called papillae, from the top surface of the tongue, which give it its rough texture. Between the papillae at the sides and base of the tongue are small, bulblike structures that are sensory organs, called "taste buds," which enable us to enjoy the sensations of flavor and warn us when food is unfit to eat. The muscle fibers are heavily supplied with nerves, so it can manipulate food in the mouth and place it between the teeth for chewing - without being bitten in the process. Babies have many more taste buds than an adult, and they have these almost everywhere in the mouth, including the cheeks. Nevertheless, adults enjoy more flavors than babies, who dislike bitter tastes and prefer bland food. The tongue also aids in the formation of sounds of speech and coordinates its movements to aid in swallowing. It is especially helpful when we are forced to "eat our words." Enjoy!


The tonsils are a pair of oval-shaped organs in the back of the throat. They are part of the lymphatic system, producing "lymph," which is important to the body's defense against infection. Along with the adenoids at the base of the tongue, the tonsils protect against upper respiratory tract infections. They enlarge gradually from birth to about seven years of age and then shrink. In the Middle Ages, pharmacists, surgeons and barbers all had the same trade and were called "apothocaries." Since there were no "yellow pages," an ill person looked for the "barber pole" when he needed relief from drug mixtures ("eye of newt," spider legs, bat wings and other dusty, unsavory things) or even for an unsanitary and painful operation. Today, the word, "tonsorial," refers to a barber and his work. Ah, for the "good old days!"


A tooth is a hard structure, set in the upper or lower jaw, that is used for chewing food. Teeth also give shape to the face and aid in the process of speaking clearly. The enamel that covers the crown (the part above the gum) in each tooth can be broken down by acids produced by the mouth for digestive purposes. This process is called "decay". To prevent decay, good oral hygiene, consisting of daily brushing and flossing, is necessary. The hardest substance in the human body is one of the four kinds of tissue which make up the tooth. It is enamel and covers the crown (area above the gum line) of the tooth. A bony material called "cementum" covers the root, which fits into the jaw socket and is joined to it with membranes. "Dentin" is found under the enamel and the cementum, and this material forms the largest part of the tooth. At the heart of each tooth is living "pulp," which contains nerves, connective tissues, blood vessels and lymphatics. When a person gets a toothache, the pulp is what hurts.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is an erosion of the surface of the teeth, usually the enamel, and is most often due to food or bacteria collecting on the surface of the tooth.

Tooth Development

Primary ("baby") teeth usually appear between the ages of six months and three years and start to be replaced at about six years of age. During "teething," a baby may be irritable, fretful, clinging, have difficulty in sleeping and may cry more than is usual. Extra saliva may cause the child to dribble and a baby tends to chew on anything he or she can hold. The gum may become red and swollen and the cheeks may be warm and red in the area in which the tooth is coming out. We are born with the beginning of our permanent teeth already in place under the gums below the primary teeth. To neglect baby teeth is to invite a lifetime of dental problems, because as a child matures, the baby teeth guide the growth and development of the jawbones and of the permanent teeth. If the primary teeth are lost too early, the jaw may not develop correctly and the permanent teeth may come in crooked or overcrowded. Adult teeth form very slowly and push up through the gums when they are fully formed. Permanent "molars" (grinding teeth) appear behind the primary premolars, where a child has no teeth at all. Eight bicuspids dislodge and take up the space of the eight primary molars, and adult incisors and cuspids (sharp, chisel-shaped, biting teeth) replace baby teeth of the same kind. When baby teeth fall out, the roots are absorbed into the gums. The first permanent teeth are frequently known as "six-year-molars," because they appear at around that age. The process of shedding baby teeth begins at about that time too, with the front teeth as the first to go. The upper canines are the last baby teeth to be lost. By the age of eleven to thirteen, twenty-eight permanent teeth are usually in place. The four additional adult, or "wisdom," teeth appear several years later; or, sometimes, they do not appear at all.

Articles / Blogs / News Related To The Human Jaw

The information on this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended or recommended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any medical condition or treatment. Some or all of the information on this page may be supplied by a third-party and not controlled by the DianaMossop.com website or authors and is therefore is not the responsibility of the DianaMossop.com website or its authors.


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