Ten Human Tongue Facts for Well-Rounded Oral Care


Think back to the days when your tongue served two main functions: licking soft-serve ice cream cones and taunting a sibling when you stuck it out in his direction. But the tongue actually goes beyond melting desserts and young attitude. Here are ten human tongue facts, including some of its functions.

The Average Tongue Is Four Inches Long

The tongue consists of two parts: anterior and posterior. The anterior tongue is mostly visible and about two thirds of the tongue's total length. The posterior tongue sits near the back of the throat and measures the other one third in length.

Your Tongue Aids in Digestion and Mouth Cleaning

According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the tongue initiates digestion by transferring food during mastication (the chewing process) and subsequently swallowing. It's attached to the floor of the mouth by a fold known as the frenulum. The tip of the tongue, known as the apex, isn't directly attached to the mouth floor, thus allowing it to reach the upper parts of the mouth for cleaning and speech.

You Have 3,000 to 10,000 Taste Buds

Can you believe that the tongue has 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds. That's according to Rene Smith, Science Kids website creator. Your tongue plays a crucial role in taste, and your sense of taste is governed by the tongue via the taste buds on the upper surface. These taste buds house the taste receptors, which register the different flavors in your food.

Tongues Know Five Taste Types

Five categories make up your taste perception: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory. Saliva is needed to moisten food before a tongue's taste receptors can recognize it.

Bacteria on Your Tongue Can Cause Bad Breath

That taste doesn't always go away at night. According to the American Breath Specialists, as many as 60 million people in the United States suffer from chronic bad breath, or halitosis. And as Jordan D. Davis, DDS states, it can develop from bacteria collecting on the tongue. In order to negate this accumulation, soft-bristled toothbrushes like the Colgate® 360® Sensitive Pro-Relief not only go easy on your teeth's enamel, but contain a tongue cleaner on back of the brush head to scrape away bacteria.

Your Tongue Has Eight Muscles

The four intrinsic muscles aren't attached to any bones, allowing the tongue to change shape. The four extrinsic muscles, however, are attached to bone, and allow the tongue to change position. Together, these muscles allow your tongue to move in different directions, facilitating speech.

It Can Produce More Than 90 Words per Minute

People rely on the tongue's extreme agility and flexibility to speak. It works in conjunction with the lips and teeth to turn sounds from your vocal cords into syllables and words.

The Tip of Your Tongue Is Very Sensitive

According to the NCBI, but this allows it to perform two functions: First, it determines the "mechanical characteristics" of food. This is why a fish bone, for example, feels much larger than it actually is. Secondly, after you swallow a mouthful of food, your tongue searches the entire mouth for the remaining portions of the chewed pieces.

Tongues Have Defense Cells

Your tongue has defense cells that comprise the lingual tonsil as noted by the NCBI. Located in the back of the mouth at the tongue's base, it is part of the lymphatic tonsillar ring. The palatine tonsils and the adenoids work with the lingual tonsil to guard the body against germs that enter through your mouth.

Tongues Can Grow Bacteria Nest

When most people think of their oral health, they focus on brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. But in many ways, the health of your tongue is just as important as that of your teeth. A tongue that doesn't nest bacteria is key to preventing serious conditions such as gum disease and tooth decay, as well as lesser ailments such as bad breath.

Though small in size, the human tongue is big on importance. It plays crucial roles in helping us taste, eat, digest and speak. And that's nothing to stick your tongue out at.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Each tooth has several distinct parts; here is an overview of each part:

  • Enamel – this is the outer and hardest part of the tooth that has the most mineralized tissue in the body. It can be damaged by decay if teeth are not cared for properly.

  • Dentin – this is the layer of the tooth under the enamel. If decay makes it through the enamel, it next attacks the dentin — where millions of tiny tubes lead directly to the dental pulp.

  • Pulp – this is the soft tissue found in the center of all teeth, where the nerve tissue and blood vessels are located. If tooth decay reaches the pulp, you usually feel pain and may require a root canal procedure.