What You Need to Know About Your Tongue

The tongue is one of the most overlooked parts of the mouth. You have probably been told many times not to neglect brushing your tongue when you clean your teeth. Despite being frequently forgotten, your tongue is very important. The tongue has three major functions. It assists with chewing food and pronouncing words properly along with providing sensations of taste.

Your Tongue May Indicate Potential Health Problems

If your tongue appears white, you may have a fungal infection present in your mouth. Infants and diabetics are especially susceptible to thrush—a form of a fungal infection. White spots may also reveal a bacterial film. This is easily alleviated with proper oral hygiene. If your tongue appears yellow in color, it may indicate a digestive problem or a fever.  A burning tongue may indicate auto-immune issues.

How Your Tongue Assists with Eating

The flexible front portion helps move food throughout your mouth so that your teeth can chew it. The back portion pushes chewed food toward your throat to aid in swallowing. You have thousands of taste buds which help you distinguish different flavors.

Taste Buds, what do they do?

What would life be like if we couldn’t taste anything? It wouldn’t matter if you drank coffee or orange juice – they would just be flavorless liquids. The only difference between chocolate and Brussels sprouts would be texture. Eating wouldn’t be nearly as fun, so the restaurants and markets you love probably wouldn’t exist. Taste is a big part of our lives, each and every day.

The primary organ responsible for our sense of taste, but you knew that. What you may not know is, it is made up of eight muscles and has up to 10,000 taste buds. Each taste bud features microvillae, microscopic hair-like structures that send information about flavor to the brain.

Taste buds are located on the little bumps on our tongue, which are called papillae. Different areas hold taste buds that sense five flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. What the heck is umami? It’s a type of taste that was officially recognized in 1985. Umami describes the taste of glutamates, which have a brothy or meaty flavor.

Every few weeks, we produce new taste buds. So when you burn your tongue and seem to lose your sense of taste in that area for awhile, you’ll probably regain the sense fairly quickly. The older we get, the fewer taste buds we regenerate, so at some point, you’ll lose the acute sense of taste you have in your youth. Having a stuffy nose can also interfere with taste because olfactory senses factor into how foods and drinks taste. Smoking, too, can dull the sense of taste.

At checkups, Dr. Fondriest will closely inspect your entire mouth. He’ll look for lesions that may indicate oral cancer. If you notice any problems in your mouth, be sure to tell Dr. Fondriest during your visit!

Tongue Trivia

  • Similar to the uniqueness of fingerprints, no tongue is the same.
  • Taste buds can grow. When taste buds grow too big, they appear hairy.
  • Although 90% of your taste buds are located on your tongue, the other 10% are found on the insides of your cheeks and your palette.
  • Temperatures of foods and beverages alter taste. Your taste buds are sensitive to temperatures.
  • Taste buds and the nose work together to provide sensations of flavor. Sweet, sour, bitter, and salty flavors are detected by taste buds.
  • It is made up of mostly skeletal muscle tissue.
  • When damaged or injured, your tongue heals faster than any other part of your body.
  • Your tongue moves saliva to the back of your throat, even when you’re sleeping.
  • Bad breath commonly comes from bacteria and debris on the tongue.
  • It is the strongest muscle in your body.
  • With roots in ancient civilizations, piercing has been around for thousands of years.
  • A thin mucus membrane covers your tongue.
  • Nearly half of the bacteria in your mouth live on your tongue. Human mouths have more bacteria than a dog’s mouth.
  • The front flexible portion  is essential to proper pronunciation.
  • Your tongue gives hints of many diseases.

The tongue truly is an interesting part of our bodies. Show it some love by keeping it clean with regular brushing.

Why You Should Clean Your Tongue

Most of the bacteria in our mouth reside on our tongues. When you use a tongue scraper, you help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and freshen your breath. Your tongue also aids in cleaning food debris from your teeth. Keeping your tongue clean is important for maintaining a healthy mouth.

Dr. James Fondriest and our team at Lake Forest Dental Arts would like to encourage all of our patients to remember to clean their tongues. To schedule an appointment at our Chicago dentist office, contact us at (847) 234-0517. We serve patients from Lake Forest, Chicago and the surrounding areas.