Wide excision remains the usual method for management of oral cavity carcinomas. With more advanced lesions, these resections often involve sacrifice of multiple sub-units of the oral cavity. The resultant defect is rightfully of secondary concern in this ablative effort; however, our subsequent reconstructive efforts must then attempt to restore the form and function that has been lost. This effort requires an understanding of the normal physiology and function of the oral cavity and an understanding of which oral functions are most affected by which type of resection. Furthermore, we must understand the plasticity of these various functions and the potential for their recovery. Additionally, we must appreciate the effect of loss of these functions on a patient's overall quality of life. To this end, this chapter provides a brief review of the embryology of the oral cavity followed by a discussion of normal oral cavity functions, then, a discussion of abnormal functions imposed by resection, and finally, the aspects of our reconstructive efforts, which relate directly to preservation and restoration of these functions.
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