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What are the Fauces?

Mary McMahon
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

The fauces are an area of the mouth bordered by the soft palate and the base of the tongue, acting as a transition area between the mouth and the pharynx. Technically the singular is faux, but this term is rarely used. This anatomical structure is sometimes known as the isthmus of the fauces and this region of the mouth and throat notably houses the palatine tonsils, structures involved in the function of the immune system and the medical condition known as tonsillitis, in which the tonsils become inflamed.

This term comes from the Latin word faux, pluralized as fauces, describing a small passageway. In Roman architecture, fauces were small openings, often arched, which created transition areas in structures such as homes. The fauces look a bit similar to their Roman counterparts, explaining the name. Many other Latin terms for anatomy reference objects which share shape or other characteristics with the anatomical structure being described. Faux in this case is not related to the French word meaning "fake" or "false."

The key features of the fauces are the palatine arches, the palatopharyngeal arch and the palatoglossal arch. These arches span across the top of the mouth, and are covered in mucous membranes similar to those found elsewhere in the mouth. These membranes have a number of properties which make them of medical interest, including the secretion of mucus to keep the mouth and throat lubricated.

Occasionally, people can experience inflammation of the fauces. The inflammation may be caused by trauma or infection, and is characterized by pain, swelling, and redness. People may find it difficult to speak, breathe, or swallow and can be very uncomfortable as a result of the inflammation in the fauces. This can be treated with steroid medications to reduce the swelling and medications to kill microorganisms if the inflammation is being caused by an infection.

Doctors in several medical specialties may have cause to examine the fauces and treat disorders in this area of the mouth. Dentists and oral surgeons may inspect the fauces to learn more about a patient's oral health, and this area can also be of interest to respiratory therapists, physical therapists helping people recover speaking and swallowing abilities, and ear, nose, and throat specialists. Patients sometimes experience discomfort when doctors examine this area because it can require the use of a tongue depressor while the mouth is held wide open to provide a good view.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By lighth0se33 — On Nov 20, 2011

I noticed some white spots on my fauces. I had been singing a lot in the months before the spots appeared, because I was trying to get my first album recorded.

Singing was becoming difficult, because those spots were very dry. It became hard to hold a note without cracking, and it was very uncomfortable even while I wasn't singing.

My doctor gave me steroids and told me to take a break from singing. She told me that without vocal rest, the steroids would only mask the problem. To really recover, I had to let my throat sit still.

By orangey03 — On Nov 20, 2011

@Perdido – I also have taken steroids for inflammation of the fauces. Though they helped me recover initially, they caused strange side effects.

My swollen throat felt almost well within a day and a half. At first, I thought this must be a miracle drug.

However, I couldn't sit still while taking them. I got a lot done around the house, but I could not sleep for days. Also, I was hungry every couple of hours, and if I didn't eat, my stomach would hurt badly.

I also noticed that my abdomen swelled. This went away about a week after I quit the steroids, but I looked really fat for awhile there.

After the five-day dose pack was all gone, my sore throat started to return. I had to go back to my doctor and get some antibiotics. I asked him not to give me any more steroids, because they affected me too much in undesirable ways.

By Perdido — On Nov 19, 2011

Strep throat can wreak havoc on the fauces. I have gotten this type of infection several times in my life, and each time, it is so severe that I have to seek medical help.

The infection causes my throat to swell so much that I can barely swallow, and when I do, it hurts so much that I wish I hadn't. I get a fever and a cough along with the inflammation, and I feel as though I might die.

My doctor usually gives me steroids, which bring the swelling down within a day, and antibiotics to fight the bacteria. The steroids work so quickly that it's almost scary, and they give me an extra boost of strength while I'm on them.

By cloudel — On Nov 18, 2011

I never knew before reading this article that the throat produced its own mucus! I know that a dry throat can be particularly uncomfortable, but I always blamed the lack of lubrication on some other area of the body.

I am one of the few people in my family who still has my tonsils. Many doctors used to recommend having them removed whenever a person would get a sore throat several times a year, and though mine suggested it, I refused.

A part of me wishes that I had listened to him, because I get inflamed tonsils pretty frequently. When this happens, it feels like there isn't enough lubrication back there to help me swallow around the swelled tonsils.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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