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What is the hanging thing at the back of the mouth?

What is that little hanging thing in the back of the mouth? Why is it there?

4866 day(s) ago

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The little piece of flesh hanging in the back of our throats is called the uvula. The word uvula comes to us from Latin and it means “little grape.” Humans are the only animals that have an uvula and although it has several minor functions, its main function is in speech. The English-speaking world is not so familiar with the guttural sounds created in the back of the throat using the uvula but the sounds are common in other languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, German, and Turkish.

The uvula is also connected to another biological function, although doctors say that this is not its purpose. Massaging the uvula can initiate the gag reflex and cause vomiting. The uvula can also be a factor in excessive snoring and deep breathing during sleep. It is noted that people having a longer uvula are more at risk of developing sleep apnea along with snoring. If it gets severe enough, a doctor may recommend a surgery where the uvula is either fully or partially removed. Another feature of the uvula is that it helps block the nasal passage into the throat so food can’t get into the nose.

Some medical conditions such as dehydration can cause the uvula to enlarge and swell. When this happens, it can grow to 5 times its normal size. When it gets large enough to touch the tongue or the bottom of the throat it can cause uncomfortable gagging sensations as well as cause problems with eating, drinking, and breathing.

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