10 Fun Tongue Facts
- The average tongue from the back to the tip is 3 inches long
- There are eight muscles that make up the human tongue
- Your tongue has between 3,000 and 10,000 taste buds not visible to the human eye
- The average lifespan of a taste bud is 2 weeks
- There are 5 different types of taste buds: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory (umami)
- Your tongue never stops working. Even when you sleep
- Your tongue is the most flexible muscle in your body
- Your tongue requires moisture to taste
- Your tongue shapes sounds into words
- Your tongue print is as unique as your fingerprint
Speech Tongue movements translate sounds into understandable words.
Taste Tongue and nose work together to help us taste food.
Eat Tongue muscles move food around your mouth while you chew.
Digestion muscles in tongue propel chewed food into your esophagus (food pipe in throat) and down into your stomach for digestion.
Breastfeeding The tongue enables an infant to extract milk from their mother’s breast.
Tongue Anatomy 101
Taste buds are sensory organs that enable us to experience sweet, savory, salty, bitter, and sour foods.
Papillae are the visible raised bumps on the surface of the tongue.
Microvilli are highly sensitive microscopic hairs that send messages to the brain about the taste of something.
Septum visible central groove that divides the tongue into left and right halves.
Frenulum is the thin membranous tissue that attaches your tongue to the bottom of your mouth.
Sublingual caruncles are bilateral bumps on each side of the frenulum that secrete saliva into the mouth.
The surface of your tongue is uneven and if not cleaned will harbor bacteria that will cause bad breath and inflammation.
Your tongue harbors over 300 strains of bacteria that continuously ferments and results in a thin coating or film that coats the surface of the tongue. Food and beverages that are known offenders to discolor teeth alter the color of the coating
on the tongue until cleaned.
A tongue scraper or tongue cleaner is superior to using your toothbrush. Unlike teeth which are smooth surfaces, your tongue’s surface is bumpy and requires a device that has a
rippled edge to reach the base of your tongue’s crevices.
How to clean your tongue
Step One: Extend your tongue
Extending your tongue will enable you to clean as much of your tongue while minimizing gagging.
Step Two: Scrape or brush your tongue
Gently scrape or brush your tongue from the back to the front using short strokes similar to using a garden rake.
Step Three: Rinse your mouth
Rinse your mouth for 30 seconds with an alcohol free mouthwash to remove left behind, circulating debris.
Repeat 2 times daily
Tongue Piercing Facts
Many people elect to have their tongue pierced for a variety of reasons, most often for self expression.
Despite the seeming popularity, piercing your tongue is dangerous. Piercing the tongue creates a small hole in your tongue that can evolve into a life threatening infection, blood
loss, and/or permanent injury.
Tongue and/or mouth piercings may:
- Make it more difficult to speak and/or pronounce words
- May impact the integrity and strength of adjacent tooth enamel
- Harbor bacteria that may increase your risk for gum disease or systemic infection
- Alter your ability to chew & swallow food properly
- Give rise to an allergic reaction to the metal in the jewelry
***Note: The American Dental Association warns against oral piercings due to the inherent risks of tetanus, risk of swelling that impairs your ability to breathe, and due to the increased risk of endocarditis (life threatening condition where harmful bacteria enter the bloodstream and impact the heart).
Pierced tongue care
If you decide to have or have had your tongue pierced, it is imperative that your oral health care is meticulous to help prevent infection and that you maintain professional teeth cleaning visits as recommended by your dentist.
- It is recommended to remove your piercing during sleep to prevent accidental swallowing of jewelry as well as to reduce the accumulation of bacteria around the jewelry.
Tongue Disease & Conditions
Tongue tied short frenulum that limits tongue movement
often causing impaired speech.
Fissured tongue benign condition in which the tongue has deep, irregular shaped grooves on the visible top surface of the tongue.
Geographic tongue (shown right) are benign red, patchy- irregular shapes visible on the top surface of the tongue.
Cause is unknown.
Thrush is a painful, fungal infection that surfaces in people
who are immunocompromised.
Tingly or burning tongue sensation is caused by having a dry mouth due to decreased secretion of saliva produced by salivary glands.
Black hairy tongue is a visible discoloration of tongue papillae.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which the tongue falls down and blocks the airway causing stopping breathing during sleep.
Oral cancer lesions found on the posterior portion of the tongue are more life threatening than lesions found on the anterior portion of the tongue which are often surgically removed. During each preventive dental visit, your dental hygienist and dentist will perform a screening for oral cancer.