The Human Tongue 101

The Human Tongue 101

What comes to mind when you think about the human tongue? Perhaps you think of a child sticking their tongue out at their sibling to express their sour emotion, or the pink body part inside of your mouth that helps you to swallow.

Many people do not think much deeper than that when it comes to the tongue, but then again, why would they! That is why we want to give you a crash course on the intricacies of the human tongue and all the multiple, amazing roles the tongue plays in daily life that you may not have known!

Anatomy Of The Tongue — What Is It?

By definition, the tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth. The tongue’s pink hue and moist overlay cones from the tissue that its covered by, which is called mucosa. Underneath the moist overlay of the tongue lie thousands of tiny bumps called papillae, which are then covered by thousands of taste buds!

What Are The Tongue’s Main Functions?

We bet you didn’t know that the tongue plays an imperative role in the following functions:

Chewing & Swallowing: Let us explain! When it comes to chewing and swallowing, the tongue helps to collect the food or liquid when it enters the mouth, preparing the food or liquid for the swallowing phase. Be more attentive upon the next time you put a piece of food in your mouth.

You will notice that your tongue works to move the food towards one side of your mouth or the other, and then to the palate just before swallowing. Pushing the food to either side of the mouth to be chewed and mixed with saliva is extremely important in aiding the smooth swallowing and healthy digestion of your food.

Breathing: What does your tongue have to do with your breathing, you may ask? When you breathe, the tongue is positioned in such a way that the airway is “patent.” The tongue aids in the effortless breathing through your mouth by remaining in a relaxed and patent position, widening your airway and promoting a fluent airflow.

In contrast, you will take notice to the way the muscles in your tongue react when something is not supposed to be swallowed. For example, if you failed to properly chew your food and you go to prematurely swallow something that won’t easily go down, your tongue’s natural reflex is to immediately block the airway.

Tasting: The thousands of tiny bumps on your tongue called papillae, are covered by thousands of taste buds as described above. The taste buds that are located on your tongue are single-handedly responsible for allowing you the blessing (or curse) that is: taste! As you indulge in your favorite meal, savory treat, or a delicious dessert you couldn’t refuse, you can thank you tongue for that!

Singing: Lastly, there is a ton of fascination around the art of singing. What makes some people better at singing than others? After all, singing is just the way that sounds come out of your mouth — or at least that’s what we thought! Believe it or not, the tongue plays a large role in one’s singing ability.

How you control your tongue when singing will directly affect the sound that is produced. For example, if your tongue pulls up too much during singing, it will pull the larynx out of position. If the tongue is pressed down, it pushed the larynx lower and out of position, causing your voice to sound tense.  

What Your Tongue Can Tell You About Your General Health

Cancer: The presence of cancer can be detected by a thorough evaluation of the tongue. A growth, ulcer, or unusual pattern on the tongue that grows steadily is often an indication of oral cancer.

Digestion Problems: A heavily saliva coated tongue, or a tongue that lacks saliva is an indication of poor digestion or digestion issues.

Thrush: Thrush is known as a “yeast infection of the mouth.” Patients on antibiotics or patients who are diabetic are at an increased risk of developing thrush.

Vitamin Deficiencies: A red tongue can indicate a vitamin deficiency, specifically a lack of b-12 and folic acid.

Over exposure to tobacco: “Hairy tongue” is an indication of the over exposure to tobacco

Leukoplakia: A white tongue is sometimes an indication of mucous membrane disorder called Leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is commonly caused by overuse of tobacco, smoking, or ill fitting dentures.

Geographic Tongue: Geographic tongue is categorized by a “road-map” like pattern on the tongue, often indicating an allergy or intolerance to certain foods and/or ingredients. I.e: Foods high in acidity can sometimes cause a geographic tongue to flare.

Bad Breath: Bad breath could indicate that the patient has  halitosis (chronic bad breath), or simply that oral hygiene needs improving.

Are you experiencing any of the following? Visit Advanced Periodontics & Implant Dentistry for a thorough oral evaluation. Your oral health is a window to your general health — Don’t wait!

Debunked Tongue Myths

Tongue Myth #1: The Tongue Does NOT Have Flavor Zones

You know those photos depicting which parts of your tongue detect which specific flavors (salty, sweet, savory, sour)? That’s a myth!

Tongue Myth #2: The Tongue Is Not The Strongest Muscle In Your Body

The tongue isn’t the strongest muscle in your body. The tongue is not just one muscle! It is a conglomerate of eight separate muscles, working together!

5 Fun Facts About Your Tongue

  1. Sticking out your tongue is known as a rude or sassy gesture, but, not always! In Tibet, sticking out your tongue is considered a polite gesture used to greet people.
  2. Taste receptors are located at the tip of your tongue.
  3. The tongue is responsible for the “sweet tooth.”
  4. The thyroid gland develops in the tongue.
  5. Your tongue can get a sexually transmitted disease.

We hope you enjoyed The Human Tongue: 101, brought to you by Advanced Periodontics & Implant Dentistry. Don’t forget to schedule your appointment, today. Dial (877)440-2976.