Tongue Facts For You
Our teeth and gums are essential part of your mouth, but do you ever think about your tongue? This muscle, which is typically about four-inches long, consists of two parts; the anterior (front) and the posterior (back) by the throat. Known as a muscular hydrostat, your tongue is the only muscle in your body that doesn’t require the skeleton to make it work.
After your chewing your food, your tongue transfers and swallows it. The tip of your tongue is called the apex, and can reach the upper areas of the mouth since it isn’t attached to the floor of the mouth. The frenulum is the fold that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth. The top of your tongue is pink and bumpy and the bottom is smooth and purple because of the blood vessels along the bottom.
Your tongue comes equipped with 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds. The bumps on the tongue, or papillae, are where the taste buds live. They sit on the upper surface of the tongue with taste receptors, so you can taste your food. Your taste buds flavor receptors can sense sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty tastes. They do require saliva–making the food moist—for your tongue to recognize flavor. Interestingly, the tongue cannot detect taste if it is dry, no matter what the flavor source.
About 60 million people in the U.S. suffer from halitosis, or bad breath. This can develop from bacteria accumulating on your tongue. You can help prevent this by cleaning your tongue daily and staying well hydrated.
The color of your tongue can tell you something about your health:
- Pink generally means you are in good health.
- White can mean you have a fungal infection.
- Yellow tongue may reveal a fever or stomach problem.
- Smooth tongue (no bumps) can mean you have an iron, folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency.
- A hairy or darker than normal tongue coating can come from food staining, bacteria or using tobacco.
Take good care of your tongue by keeping it clean. You can clean it by brushing gently with light strokes using your toothbrush. You can use toothpaste to coat the tongue before scraping it to neutralize bacteria and help remove it. A tongue scraper is an excellent investment because it is gentle on your tongue and doesn’t set off your gag reflex, unlike a toothbrush.
At Lifepoint Dental Partners, we are happy to help you care for your oral health. Please give us a call at 515.965.5999 if you have questions or concerns!