Here on the Clopper’s Mill Dental Care blog, we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about oral health in regards to the teeth, gums, and jaw. But we haven’t talked much about an important, yet oft-overlooked part of the mouth: the tongue.
The tongue provides so many different functions for the mouth, and its health is critical for your oral health and overall health. So what gives? How, exactly, is the tongue so important?
In this blog, the Gaithersburg dentists at Clopper’s Mill Dental Care will provide you with some fun facts on the tongue, and give you strategies for how to take care of your tongue for improved health benefits.
The average tongue is three inches long.
The length of the tongue is determined by the distance from the epiglottis to the tip of the tongue—and for most people, that distance is right around three inches. The longest tongue on the planet is that of American Nick Stoeberl, whose tongue is a whopping 3.97 inches in length!
Your tongue has eight muscles.
Many people incorrectly view the tongue as a single muscle. There are actually eight muscles that dictate the movements and function of the tongue, allowing it to move around the mouth and change shape.
Your tongue has thousands of taste buds.
The average tongue has anywhere from 2000 to 4000 taste buds, with some tongues possessing up to 10,000 taste buds! These folks are considered to be “supertasters” with a heightened sense of taste for bitter foods with the bitterness compound 6-n-propylthiouracil. On the other side of the equation, a quarter of the population cannot taste 6-n-propylthiouracil at all, and while they can taste normal foods, they’re considered “nontasters” on the taste bud spectrum.
Your tongue is very sensitive.
The tongue is incredibly sensitive for two reasons: so it can figure out the “mechanical characteristics” of food (which is how you identify chicken bones in your chicken or a pit in your cherry), and so it can search the mouth for pieces of food after you swallow (exactly how you get all that spinach out of your teeth). This extreme sensitivity also allows you to quickly move your tongue off that piping hot piece of pizza, and it makes for a terrible time when you accidentally chomp down on your tongue while scarfing down enchiladas.
Your tongue cleans your mouth and aids in digestion.
Your tongue is instrumental in the digestion process, transferring food from chewing to swallowing and using saliva to make things easier to process for your stomach. The tip of your tongue follows up after the swallowing motion, searching for food particles to scrape from between your teeth.
Tongues are a hotbed for bacteria.
No surprise here—tongues tend to harbor a ton of bacteria. On the mild end of the spectrum, a tongue that nests bacteria will almost certainly cause bad breath—and in more serious circumstances, a bacteria-ridden tongue leads to periodontal disease, tooth decay, and even jaw atrophy.
It’s important to not just to brush, floss, and use mouthwash, but to lightly brush or scrape your tongue to remove bacteria and debris. This will dramatically decrease the risk of developing oral health ailments, and will keep your smile bright and healthy for years to come!
Your tongue says a lot about your overall health.
Your tongue doesn’t just tell a story about your oral health—it tells a story about your overall health as well. For example, a bright red tongue is often a sign of scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease in children, a tongue with white spots could signal oral thrush (basically a yeast infection in your mouth), and a black, hairy tongue (yikes!) could be a sign of bacterial overgrowth in the mouth.
If you’re having problems with your tongue, it’s best to take a trip to your local dentist to make sure your oral health and overall health are in prime condition. That’s where Clopper’s Mill dental care can help. Routine checkups at Clopper’s Mill will ensure you have bright, healthy smile, strong supple gums, and a top-notch tongue to boot! Schedule an appointment with us today.