Tongues – we use ours for talking, eating, and swallowing. It’s the primary (but not the only) way we taste our food. It helps us manipulate food from our front teeth for tearing to our back teeth for chewing. We use it every day, but we probably hardly ever think about it – and yet, our tongues are one of the most interesting muscle groups in our entire body!
So if you’re working on developing a better understanding of your mouth and how to take care of it, knowing a little bit more about your tongue can go a long way toward helping you keep it healthy! That’s why, in today’s blog, we’re dispelling a few common myths and sharing some fun facts about the tongue.
Putting That Tongue To Work
When it comes to the tongue, there are plenty of myths out there, one of them being that, relative to its size, your tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. It turns out that isn’t quite true – partially because your tongue isn’t just one muscle. The tongue is actually a grouping of eight different muscles that intertwine together to operate. This grouping is referred to as a muscular hydrostat, and consists primarily of muscles with no skeletal support. One of the most well-known comparisons in other animals? An elephant’s trunk!
And when it comes to keeping your tongue working well, you definitely need to do more than just flap it for exercise. The tongue naturally has a high fat volume, and increases in this volume have been correlated with general obesity. According to various studies, your tongue can actually accumulate fat along with the rest of your body – an issue that can cause obstructive sleep apnea in adults with obesity.
Let’s Talk Taste
On average, most adults have between 2000-4000 taste buds built into their mouth. The sensory cells in the taste buds are responsible for the ways in which we perceive taste – and although there are old wives’ tales suggesting that we develop “new” taste buds every seven years, our taste buds actually renew themselves much more frequently, every week or so.
When it comes to taste, everyone is different. Approximately a quarter of all adults fit into a classification called “supertasters” – these folks are able to detect certain tastes more intensely, especially bitter tastes. And if you’ve ever heard anyone say that cilantro tastes like soap, they’re probably not kidding! It turns out, though, that this sensation is more closely linked to the olfactory senses (our sense of smell) – individuals that get a soapy taste from cilantro are more sensitive to the scent of aldehyde chemicals, which are found in cilantro and soap.
On The Front Lines
As you know by now, the human tongue is pretty dynamic – and not just in the ways we use it every day. Tongues can also be an important tool when it comes to detecting disease and other health problems. For example, painful bumps on the tongue might just be canker sores (mouth ulcers), or they might be an indication of something more serious.
Similarly, white spots or a white coating on the tongue can be indicative of something simple, such as oral thrush (a type of yeast infection) – but they can also be caused by leukoplakia, which can be a precursor to cancer. If there’s something out of the ordinary going on with your tongue, it’s a good idea to see your dentist or your primary care doctor to determine whether it’s a simple problem or a warning sign of something bigger.Read more →