Good oral health goes beyond brushing and flossing. Your mouth plays several more roles than you think. But what is actually in your mouth? The oral cavity is the first component of your super important digestive tract. In addition to your teeth, your mouth is made up of gums, the tongue, oral mucous membrane, salivary glands, upper and lower jaw, the uvula, and the frenulum.

Mucous membranes protect the inside parts of the human body that are exposed to air. Quite similar to how your skin protects your external body. These membranes enriched with mucous glands, secrete mucus, helping to keep the membranes moist.

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The mucous membranes are located in areas that are contiguous with your skin. As the role of your skin is to protect the body against external elements. Most of them secrete a thick, viscous substance called mucous, hence their name. 

The mucous membrane, also known as mucosa, is a layer of cells surrounding the human body organs and body openings. According to studies, there is a close relationship between general health and your oral mucosa. You can continue reading to know more interesting facts about mucosa and its role in the human body. 

Definition of Mucous Membrane 

In general, the functions of mucous membranes located in your mouth are to protect your body from being infected by viruses and bacteria. Moreover, the mucous also help to keep the tissues of your body adequately moisturized. Specific mucous membranes have specialized functions. For example, the gastric plus intestinal mucosa is primarily involved with digestion and absorption of food.

This membrane found in the reproductive organs like the vagina, plays a very crucial role. The naturally occurring vaginal discharge is produced by the vaginal mucosa to self-clean and keep the area vagina moist.

The mucous is located in areas that are adjoining the skin. Like the skin, the role of these membranes is to protect the body against external elements. Most of them secrete a viscous, thick substance called mucous, hence their name.

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The human body has four types of tissue with which your organs, cartilage, bones, and other parts of the body. One of the types of tissue, epithelium, is subdivided into two categories: mucous membranes and serous membranes.

Your mucous membranes, made of epithelial cells that cover and protect the underlying connective tissue. Your connective tissues built of fibrous and elastic tissue support other structures of the human body.

Examples of mucous membranes include the mouth, lips, nasal passages, middle ear, and the eustachian tube. Other mucous membranes include the lining of the urogenital tract, including the vagina and urethra, the lining of the digestive tract, the lining of the respiratory tract, and even your eyes, known as the conjunctival membranes.

Example of the Mucous Membrane

As your ears, nose, and throat are organs exposed to the outside world. Mucous membranes are found in these organs. 

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The membrane is made from ectodermal tissue. The mucosa contains or secretes mucus – a thick fluid that protects the inside of the human body from dirt and pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

Oral Mucous Membranes

These membranes located in your oral cavity are reddish-pink membranes that line the inside of your mouth. In addition, the oral mucosa continues outside your mouth to form the lips.

Because these membranes are prone to becoming dry if not adequately hydrated, your lips can frequently become dry. Under normal circumstances, you will notice that your saliva helps to keep your lips moist.

Nasal Mucous Membranes 

Nasal mucous membranes are lined with small blood vessels that help to warm and humidify the air you breathe. The membrane is also lined with cilia – tiny hair-like structures that help trap the debris you breathe in.

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The cilia then move the debris either toward the front of your nose or toward the back of the throat. This is an essential function of your immune system, helping to keep harmful germs out of the body.

Mucous Membranes of the Ears

These membranes are the first line of defense for your middle ear, which is generally bacteria-free. Like your nasal mucous membranes, these also have cilia that move away from any debris toward the opening of the auditory tube. The auditory tube likewise has mucous membranes with cilia to transport the debris toward the back of your throat. You will then swallow this debris.

It has been observed that your middle ear can be affected by infections and allergies. As a result, it can be filled up with fluid. This fluid can be infected or sterile and often contain secretory IgA antibodies and white blood cells.

Esophageal Mucous Membranes

Your esophageal mucous membranes work together with the muscular action to allow for peristalsis. Peristalsis is the process of moving food toward the stomach from your mouth. Peristalsis works in a wave-like motion to assist food movement down the esophageal and then to the stomach.

The mucous membranes in the esophagus also contain minor salivary glands.  These salivary glands secrete bicarbonate in high concentrations. The bicarbonate chemical helps to neutralize any refluxed stomach acid. If this stomach acid reaches your mouth, it can be harmful to the teeth and gums.

The Function of the Mucous Membrane

First and foremost, the role of these membranes is to protect your body from harmful external agents. This protection occurs in two ways:

  • The epithelial tissue in the mucous membranes forms a barrier because of its dense structure. As a result, the layer prevents pathogens from entering.
  • At the same time, the mucous membranes secrete mucus. Mucus is a viscous substance that keeps those areas slightly moist. The thick gel, produced by the epithelial tissue cells called goblet cells, contains natural antibiotics called defensins. 

Therefore, any pathogens i.e. viruses, bacteria, etc. that attempt to penetrate the mucous membrane are both caught in the mucus and attacked by the defenses. Only the mucous membranes found in the urinary tract are free of mucous.

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The role of some mucous membranes is absorption. The mucous membranes found in the digestive tract can absorb part of the nutrients helping to transfer them elsewhere in your body. Interestingly, the nasal mucous membranes are covered with multiple short hairs. Their function is also to block out the maximum number of inhaled particles.

Aging and Your Mucous Membranes

Unlike tissue or skin on the outside of your body, mucous membranes are relatively sheltered from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and exposure to the weather. This helps keep the mucous membranes relatively unchanged throughout your aging process.

Mucous membranes in your body replace themselves quite quickly. However, studies have confirmed that the oral mucosa in humans becomes increasingly thin with age.

Oral Mucous Membranes Are the Mirror of the Body

Do you know that your oral cavity is often referred to as the “mirror of the body”, because the condition of the mucous membranes in your mouth change depending on many different diseases. A thorough oral examination by your doctor can help diagnose what problem you might be having.

If you look at the mirror and open your mouth, everything you see that is not a tooth is covered by a protective lining called the mucous membrane or the oral mucosa. It is a mucous membrane very similar to the mucous membranes that line the inside of your nostrils and ears. 

Your oral mucosa plays a significant role in maintaining your oral health and overall health. It actively protects and defends your body from germs that enter the mouth. In addition, the membrane also contains keratin – the substance is also found in your fingernails and hair, helping to make the mucosa resistant to injury.

Caring for Your Mucous Membranes

You need to care for the mucous membrane in your mouth. If you have dry mucous membranes, they are a sign of dehydration and could lead to various health problems. For example, dry membranes in the lining of your nose can cause frequent bloody noses.

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One of the easiest ways to keep your mucous membranes moist is by drinking plenty of water. You can also try using a humidifier, preferably a cool-mist humidifier. These small steps can help keep your mouth wet, preventing diseases like dry mouth.

The mucous membrane most often affected are your mouth and eyes. Mucous membrane pemphigoid primarily affects the various mucous membranes. It is a chronic disorder characterized by blisters that occurs when then your immune system attacks the different membranes and causes blisters and sores. 

Hence to take care of your mucosa you need to drink plenty of water as it will keep your mouth hydrated. The mucosal membrane keeps the tissues moist, especially in the mouth and nose, functioning as a protective barrier. In case of any issues, discuss them with your doctor or give us a call.