Landmarks in the Oral Cavity

Oral Tissues and Structures

Landmarks of the oral tissues include the palate, tongue, cheeks and floor of the mouth. It is significant to recognize the normal appearance of these structures during an intraoral examination of the patient.

  • Fauces – Passageway from oral cavity to pharynx.
  • Frenum – Raised folds of tissue that extend from the alveolar and the buccal and labial mucosa.
  • Gingiva – Mucosal tissue surrounding portions of the maxillary and mandibular teeth and bone.
  • Hard palate – Anterior portion of the palate which is formed by the processes of the maxilla.
  • Incisive papilla – A tissue projection that covers the incisive foramen on the anterior of the hard palate, just behind the maxillary central incisors.
  • Maxillary tuberosity – A bulge of bone posterior to the most posterior maxillary molar.
  • Maxillary/Mandibular tori – Normal bony enlargements that can occur either on the maxilla or mandible.
  • Mucosa – Mucous membrane lines the oral cavity. It can be highly keratinized (such as what covers the hard palate), or lightly keratinized (such as what covers the floor of the mouth and the alveolar processes) or thinly keratinized (such as what covers the cheeks and inner surfaces of the lips).
  • Palatine rugae – Firm ridges of tissues on the hard palate.
  • Parotid papilla – Slight fold of tissue that covers the opening to the parotid gland on the buccal mucosa adjacent to maxillary first molars.
  • Pillars of Fauces – Two arches of muscle tissue that defines the fauces.
  • Soft palate – Posterior portion of the palate. This is non-bony and is comprised of soft tissue.
  • Sublingual folds – Small folds of tissue in the floor of the mouth that cover the openings to the smaller ducts of the sublingual salivary gland.
  • Submandibular gland – Located near the inferior border of the mandible in the submandibular fossa.
  • Tonsils – Lymphoid tissue located in the oral pharynx.
  • Uvula – A non-bony, muscular projection that hangs from the midline at the posterior of the soft palate.
  • Vestibule – Space between the maxillary or mandibular teeth, gingiva, cheeks and lips.
  • Wharton’s duct – Salivary duct opening on either side of the lingual frenum on the ventral surface of the tongue.
Figure 3. Landmarks of the Mouth and Tongue.
landmarks of the oral cavity


Landmarks of the tongue include the:

  • Apex of the tongue – The tip of the tongue.
  • Circumvallate papillae – Two v-shaped rows of larger, flat, cup shaped papillae on the posterior dorsum of the tongue. Each contains taste buds.
  • Dorsal surface – The top surface of the tongue.
  • Filiform papillae – Fine, small, cone shaped papillae covering most of the dorsum of the tongue. They are responsible for giving the tongue its texture and are responsible for the sensation of touch.
  • Foliate papillae – These papillae are large, red and leaf-like. They are located on the posterior, lateral surfaces of the tongue. They contain some taste buds.
  • Fungiform papillae – Deep red in color and are distributed over the dorsum of the tongue. Each one of these mushroom shaped papillae contains a taste bud.
  • Median sulcus – Slight depression in the middle of the dorsum of the tongue running from the tip to the base of the tongue.
  • Ventral surface – The underside of the tongue.