When you think about oral hygiene, the first thing that comes to mind is probably caring for your teeth. But oral hygiene is more than just brushing twice a day: it's the culmination of the overall health of your mouth. From gums to tissue, tongue to teeth, each part of your mouth has a specific role to play. When it comes to a healthy mouth, understanding tongue anatomy can help you better plan for a holistic approach to oral health.
Parts of the Tongue
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that your tongue is a group of muscles covered in mucous. The tip is the very end of your tongue and contains most of the nerve endings, which explains why it's painful when you accidentally bite your tongue. The tip is the most mobile part of your tongue. The base is the underside of your tongue, which attaches to the rest of your mouth.
Surface and Taste Buds
The appearance of your tongue is largely dictated by lingual papillae. That's the medical term for the bumps that make up the surface of your tongue and are sometimes mistaken for taste buds. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there are four types of lingual papillae; however, only three feature taste buds: the circumvallate papillae, fungiform papillae and foliate papillae. The fourth type, the filiform papillae, is not associated with taste buds. Instead, filiform is responsible for the sensation of touch on your tongue, giving it the ability to detect the texture of food and other objects. The other lingual papillae are responsible for taste (fungiform), drainage and cleaning (foliate) and saliva production (circumvallate).
Muscles, Nerves and Arteries
Your tongue is actually a strong muscle that requires plenty of blood pumped through it in order to do its job effectively. According to an article published in The Anatomical Record, there's one main lingual artery that breaks into three branches to supply your tongue with blood, while there are four muscles that dictate the shape of the tongue and four that dictate its movement. Because your tongue must taste and feel concurrently, different nerves are responsible for different sensations.
Caring for Your Tongue
Understanding tongue anatomy is only half the battle. You'll need to care for your tongue to keep it healthy and functioning well. Your tongue is covered in millions of bacteria — some good, some bad — so it's a good idea to brush your tongue daily to manage bad breath. The Colgate 360° Advanced 4 Zone toothbrush includes an innovative cheek and tongue cleaner design.
Your tongue is complex and must be cared for to ensure it works at peak performance. Not just for tasting, your tongue helps keep your teeth healthy and begins the digestive process as soon as you pop a snack in your mouth. Pay attention to your tongue and as you care for it, it'll add a new layer to your oral care routine.