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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.