The oropharynx is the common passage for food and air. Liquid, food and air all pass through this passage.
Initially, even though air enters through the nasal cavity and food, water enters through the oral cavity, the two passages unite at a point to form the structure – oropharynx. Later on, these two passages get separated. That is to say that the water and food enters into the oesophagus and the air proceeds into the trachea.
How does it function?
It is a common path for both air and food. It functions by preventing the entry of food particles into the windpipe. The epiglottis is an elastic cartilage which serves as a switch between the larynx and the oesophagus by allowing the passage of air into the airway to the lungs, and food in the gastrointestinal tract.