child poking his tongue out

The tongue is a fascinating body part, and it plays a significant role in our essential daily bodily functions. The tongue is a part of the body that we may not spend too much time thinking about unless it is causing us some pain or discomfort. While it is possible to survive without a tongue, certain important functions (such as eating and talking) would be a lot more challenging. The tongue is one of our primary sense organs and is responsible for our sense of taste and the ability to experience and enjoy delicious foods. The tongue can also provide some interesting insights into the general health and wellness of the body. Read on about our favourite tongue facts and what your tongue can tell you about your health.  

Fascinating Facts about the Tongue 

  1. The average tongue length is 3 inches from the back to the tip 
  1. The human tongue is made up of 8 different muscles and is the most flexible organ in the body. 
  1. Each human tongue has between 3,000 – 10,000 taste buds that are not visible to the naked eye. 
  1. An individual taste bud has a lifespan of about 2 weeks.  
  1. The tongue never stops working or moving – even when we are asleep.  
  1. Moisture is required for the tongue to be able to taste. 
  1. The tongue works to shape vocal sounds into words.  
  1. Each tongue print is as unique as a fingerprint. 
  1. The tongue has 5 different types of taste buds: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory (also known as umami) 

How Does the Tongue Work? 

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that move and function without the support of the skeleton and is in fact the only muscular structure in the human body that does this. This means that the muscles in the tongue are incredibly flexible, allowing the mouth to complete such functions as whistling, speaking, singing, moving food around the mouth, swallowing, and cleaning the surfaces of the teeth. 

The movements of the tongue aren’t only restricted to sticking it out and retracting it back into the mouth. The tongue can also move from side to side, and when manipulated can appear to completely change its shape! Some people are able to make their tongue into a wide variety of shapes, from rolling it into a tubular shape to creating a 3-leafed clover appearance.  

The tongue is not only the most flexible organ in the body, but it is also the most sensitive. Babies use their tongues to explore the world around them, because of the sensitivity of the tongue and the way it can provide information about an object.  

What Can Your Tongue Tell You About Your Health? 

A healthy tongue has the appearance of being pink in colour and the presence of tiny bumps all over its surface. In fact, the colour and appearance of your tongue can tell you a lot about your overall health.  

A Bright Red Tongue – A tongue that is bright red in colour can be an indication of allergies, or it can signal the presence of diseases such as scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease.  

A Black/Brown/Yellow Tongue – A tongue that is black, brown, or yellow looking is usually a sign of poor oral hygiene. This occurs when the surface of the tongue becomes overgrown with bacteria as a result of insufficient brushing and flossing. A black tongue can also occur in those undergoing cancer treatment or who have diabetes.  

A White Tongue – A white tongue or a pink tongue with white bumps or dots on it can indicate the presence of a yeast infection known as thrush. In less common cases, white dots on the tongue can mean the presence of leukoplakia which is a precursor to cancer and common among tobacco smokers.  

Outlook 

The bottom line is, if your tongue looks or feels strange, or is a different colour than the normal healthy pink after brushing, contact your doctor or dentist. Changes in the appearance of the tongue can often indicate that we need to pay closer attention to our bodies and keep an eye on our health and lifestyle choices.  

Good oral hygiene is essential when it comes to keeping your mouth and tongue healthy. Consistent daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings will work together to prevent a buildup of bacteria and plaque that lead to the development of gum disease and bad breath. Contact our Guelph dentist’s office today to learn more about how we can best support your oral health and wellness and help you achieve your brightest and most beautiful smile yet! 

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