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Nerves, Blood Vessels and Lymphatics of the Oral Cavity

The oral cavity is enervated by cranial nerves. Arteries and veins allow for adequate blood flow, and lymph nodes need to be drained, just like all other parts of the human anatomy. The basic of the nerves, blood vessels, and lymph systems are covered here:

Nerves in your mouth

The oral cavity and everything in it get both sensory and motor nerves from branches of several cranial nerves:

  • Greater and lesser palatine nerves and nasopalatine nerves (CN V2): Supply the roof and palate

  • Lingual nerve (CN V3): Serves the floor of the mouth and senses touch and temperature for the anterior two-thirds of the tongue

  • Chorda tympani nerve (CN VII): Part of the facial nerve; contains taste fibers from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue

  • Buccal nerve (CN V3): Provides sensory innervation to the skin and mucosa of the cheek

  • Dental plexuses: Formed by branches of the superior (CN V2) and inferior alveolar nerves (CN V3); supply the teeth

  • Lingual, palatine, nasopalatine, and superior alveolar nerves: Supply the gingivae

  • Hypoglossal nerve (CN XII): Innervates the muscles of the tongue (except for the palatoglossus)

  • Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX): Supplies general sensory and taste for the posterior one-third of the tongue

  • Internal laryngeal nerve (CN X): Branches supply general sensation to a small part of the posterior part of the tongue

  • Postsynaptic parasympathetic secretomotor fibers: Run to the serous glands from the submandibular ganglion that hangs from the lingual nerve

  • Great auricular nerve: Innervates the parotid gland; comes from the cervical plexus

  • Auriculotemperal nerve (CN V3): Provides sensory innervation to the parotid gland

  • Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX): Provides presynaptic parasympathetic fibers to the otic ganglion; postsynaptic parasympathetic fibers from the otic ganglion are secretomotor (stimulate the gland to secrete saliva) to the parotid gland

  • Presynaptic secretomotor fibers: Fibers from the chorda tympani synapse with postsynaptic fibers of the submandibular ganglion that innervate submandibular and sublingual salivary glands

The blood vessels of your oral cavity

The organs and structures of the oral cavity and its structures require a fair amount of blood flow, coming from the following branches of the external carotid artery:

  • Superior labial branches of the facial arteries and infraorbital arteries: Supply blood to the upper lip

  • Inferior branches of the facial arteries and mental arteries: Supply the lower lip

  • Superior alveolar arteries (from the maxillary artery): Supply blood to the upper teeth

  • Inferior alveolar arteries (from the maxillary artery): Supply the lower teeth

  • Greater and lesser palatine arteries: Supply the palate

  • Branches of the lingual artery: Supply blood to the tongue

    • Dorsal lingual arteries: Supply the posterior part of the tongue

    • Deep lingual artery: Supplies the anterior part of the tongue and communicates with the dorsal arteries at the apex

    • Sublingual artery: Supplies the sublingual gland and the floor of the oral cavity

  • Branches of the external carotid and superficial temporal arteries: Supply the parotid salivary glands

  • Submental arteries: Supply the submandibular glands and sublingual glands

Veins of the oral cavity generally follow the arteries and have the same names. The veins of the palate drain into the pterygoid venous plexus. The lingual veins of the tongue drain into the internal jugular vein.

The lymphatics in your mouth

Lymph from the upper lip, teeth, lateral parts of the anterior part of the tongue, and gingivae drains into the submandibular lymph nodes. Lymph from the lower lip and apex of the tongue drains into the submental lymph nodes.

Lymph from the medial anterior portion of the tongue drains into the inferior deep cervical lymph nodes, and the posterior portion of the tongue drains into the superior deep cervical lymph nodes.

The parotid glands drain their lymph into the superficial and deep cervical lymph nodes. The submandibular glands drain lymph into the deep cervical lymph nodes.

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