Facts About the Tongue You Might Not Know
Unique Anatomy of the Tongue
Every tongue is very unique, not unlike fingerprints. Currently there are researchers working on reliable ways to use the tongue as a biometric authentication to identify an individual. It is amazing!
The tongue has 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds. Contrary to current belief there are no places on the tongue where taste buds are specific to just sweets, salt or tart flavors. Taste buds exist in the epiglottis and the back of the throat also. The tongue has small, pinkish-white bumps, called papillae, that are actually very fine hairlike projections. The papillae can be seen on the above picture.
On average the taste buds die off and are then replaced every 10 to 14 days.There are some people with more than 10,000 taste buds, and they are known as supertasters. Children and infants have more taste buds than adults, with some taste buds even in their cheeks and lips. This may explain why they can be so picky about food.
The tongue is very flexible, and it has eight intertwining muscles that create this flexibility. The tongue muscles are the only muscles in the body that are totally independent of the skeleton.
The tongue is separated by a length of vertical fibrous tissue. The muscles in the tongue enable shaping the tongue to facilitate eating, swallowing and talking. The tongue muscles never get tired.
Average Length of the Tongue
The average tongue for an adult male is 3.3 inches long, and a female tongue averages 3.1 inches. However, Nick Stoeberl has a tongue of approximately 3.9 inches, and he is in the Guiness Book of World Records. Enjoy the short video below if you want to see the longest tongue on record.
World’s Longest Tongue: US Man Beats Record
Signs of an Unhealthy Tongue
The healthy tongue is a pink shade, but if it is smoother than a normal tongue you may have a deficiency of nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron or folic acid. A very red tongue may indicate a sore and/or fever.
If the tongue has white patches, which may also be on the inside of the mouth, that typically means you have thrush. Thrush (a fungal infection) is easily treated, but you need a prescription from your doctor.
The University of Pennsylvania completed of study of people with obstructive sleep apnea, and they found obese individuals had a larger tongue, which had more fat.
A yellow tongue usually indicates some type of stomach problem. You may have pain or a burning sensation on you tongue, and spicy or acidic food is typically the cause.
Let the Tongue Speak What the Heart Thinks.
What Your Tongue Says About Your Health
Cancers can also affect the tongue and 90% are squamous cell carcinomas. The cancer may by a primary lesion or it may metastasise from the throat, nasal cavity or another anatomic structure. Approximately 75% of the cancers are due to modifiable behaviors, such as excessive alcohol consumption or some type of tobacco use.
The growth on the side of the tongue in the above picture is cancer.
This condition gives the tongue a geographic appear with lesions or patches, These lesions may heal in one area of the tongue and move to another area. This is a benign condition, which is also called benign migratory glossitis. There may be discomfort with an increases sensitivity to particular food flavors, such as salt, spices or even sweets.
These symptoms may include:
- The size and and shape of the lesions frequently change location
- Irregularly shaped lesions or patches the are red, smooth and irregularly shaped
- These patches may be located on the sides or top of the tongue
- Pain, burning sensation in some cases related to eating acidic or spicy food
- People may not have any symptoms
- The tongue may have a light colored or white appearance along the borders
If your symptoms do not resolve in ten days in is time to see your doctor or dentist. The cause of this condition may be genetic as it tends to run in families. This condition may last for a year.
There are over-the-counter treatments, such an anti-inflammatories, zinc or various mouth rinses. The doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment applied directly on the tongue.
Unfortunately, some people with this disorder may have fissured tongue, and the appearance of deeper grooves or fissures may appear on the tongue’s surface.
Give Thy Thoughts No Tongue
What About Other Mammals?
Dogs and cats are mammals that use their tongue in a number of ways. One way is to clean their fur or body. Their tongue tends to have a rough texture, which aids them in removing parasites and oils as well.
A dog’s tongue acts as a heat regulator. You will see a dog’s tongue hanging out of his or her mouth. The reason is the moisture on the tongue helps to cool the blood flow.
Fish, reptiles, birds and amphibians all have tongues, but alligators, crocodiles and gharials do not have tongues. Of course, that last group sure have plenty of teeth.
The tongue's many unique features are interesting. It is good to be aware of the possible problems that may occur, so take a look at it when you brush your teeth. Dentist encourage people to brush their tongue also to get rid of any bacteria, and this should be done twice daily.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Pamela Oglesby