While the tongue muscles may not be the strongest in the body, they certainly have the most stamina! They are constantly working to help you talk, chew, swallow and eat. All muscle, the tongue's components are actually made up of two pairs of four muscles, working together. They include intrinsic muscles that help to shape and form the tongue, and extrinsic muscles, which facilitate movement and anchor the tongue to structures in the head and neck. According to Radiopaedia, this allows for the complex movement of the tongue – the only muscle in the body that works independently of any skeletal bones.
The tongue's tenacity and strength are unique and different from almost every other muscle in the body. The tongue can be defined as a muscular hydrostat similar to the tentacles of an octopus, explains Scientific American. The tongue is formed from similar muscle fibers that create a flexible matrix, assisting the tongue to accomplish its many functions, very much like the appendages of an octopus!
The extrinsic muscles are attached to various areas in the mouth and head, namely the palate, throat, lower jaw and the skull. These muscles propel the tongue up and down, side to side, and back and forth. The intrinsic muscles form the tongue, allowing it to contort into many shapes, assisting in speaking, eating and swallowing.
The Good, Bad and Tasty
Without tongues, you couldn't talk, eat, swallow or even sing properly! The tongue helps form certain letters, allows you to enjoy food, and can provide clues to overall health.
In eating and swallowing, the tongue muscles move the chewed food to the back of the throat and with the help of saliva, begin the digestion process. Of course, how food tastes is important, and the tongue's taste buds (some 2,000 to 4,000 for an average adult) are constantly renewing themselves to help keep taste perception at its peak, notes PubMed Health.
Additionally, the size and position of the tongue may influence speech and sleep. The tongue muscles may be the culprits in speech and sleep disorders. The tongue can become "fat" or enlarged in overweight adults, contributing to disorders like sleep apnea. With certain speech impediments and tongue thrust, the tongue needs to be retrained to allow for proper swallowing and speech.
What does the appearance of the tongue reveal regarding overall health? A bright red tongue could be caused by a vitamin deficiency, while white spots or coating could indicate oral thrush, which is a type of yeast infection. Ulcers or red bumps could be evidence of a canker sore or even the beginning of oral cancer.
So take care of your tongue! Brush with a toothbrush like the Colgate 360° Advanced 4 Zone toothbrush, which features an innovative cheek and tongue cleaner design. Seek regular care from your dentist or dental hygienist who will screen for abnormalities. Finally, don't take this amazing versatile muscle for granted. Stick it out to check its appearance and health regularly!