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.