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The oral cavity includes the lips, the gingiva, or gums, the floor of the mouth, the buccal mucosa which is the soft lining of the inner lips and cheeks, the anterior or front two-thirds of the tongue, the hard palate which is the tough front part of the roof of the mouth, and the retromolar trigone which is the mucosa right behind the last molars on the bottom row of teeth.
The oropharynx includes the soft palate which is the soft part of the roof of the mouth right behind the hard palate, the tonsils, the walls of the throat, and the posterior or back one-third of the tongue.
The first type of epithelium is called keratinized stratified squamous epithelium.
These epithelial cells produce keratin, a protein that makes the layer tough, and protects against normal wear and tear from food and drinks.
Beneath the epithelium, there’s another layer called the basement membrane made of tough connective tissue, and below that is the lamina propria which yet more connective tissue that houses blood vessels, lymphatics, nerves, and immune cells.
A second type of epithelium is non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium, and it contains cells that don’t produce much keratin, making this layer less tough.
Oral cancer refers to cancers that develop in the oral cavity. Such cancers can affect the lips, tongue, cheek lining, floor of the mouth, and hard and soft palate. Common risk factors for oral cancer include alcohol abuse, tobacco smoking, using betel quid, immunodeficiency, and nutritional deficiencies. Diagnosis includes a biopsy, while treatment might include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
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