Tongue in cheek, tongue-tied, tip of the tongue, cat got your tongue, tongue lashing, silver tongue, and hold your tongue. With all of those idioms, it certainly seems like our tongues are capable of just about anything—and maybe they are. They help us to speak, chew, swallow and clean our mouths. They change colours like chameleons, can contort themselves into clovers and extend all the way out to our noses. Yes indeed, those wriggly taste testers are kind of like super organs.
Fun and funny as they are, however, our tongues also play a major role in our oral and dental health. We just can’t “bite our tongues” any longer—we have to share these fascinating facts about your tongue.
1. Your Tongue is All Muscle
You might have heard someone say that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body. Interesting as that “tidbit” might have been, it’s not true at all. While we still believe that tongues are superheroes, they aren’t the strongest muscle in the body by any conventional measure of strength. But that’s not to say that they aren’t impressive.
Your tongue consists of eight muscles, woven together in a matrix-like formation called a “muscular hydrostat”. Unlike the other muscles in the human body, tongues don’t have the support of a strong bone and are, instead, “anchored” to other structures in the head and neck.
Before you go thinking that the humble tongue is just a squishy weakling, ask yourself one question. “When is the last time that your tongue got tired?” Barring rare occasions, the answer is likely, “Never.” That’s because the muscles of your tongue work together and can perform all of the same tasks so that when one muscle gets tired of wagging, another one steps up to the… palate.
2. Your Tongue Has Lots of Buds
As far as muscular structure goes, the tongue stands out as something of an anatomical oddball—but that doesn’t mean that it’s all alone. In fact, your tongue probably has more buds—taste buds, that is—than most people have followers on social media.
The average human tongue has anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds that it can call friends. And those friends have friends. What we commonly refer to as taste buds are, in fact, groupings of between 50 and 150 taste receptor cells.
Though it isn’t true that different “regions” of the tongue pick up different tastes—salty, sweet and bitter tastes, for example—it is true that sense of taste varies across the tongue. That’s because the number of receptor cells per taste bud varies across the surface of the tongue and from person to person.
Generally speaking, however, taste buds themselves cluster into larger groupings called papillae, some of which are visible to the naked eye as tiny “bumps”. Papillae near the base of the tongue tend to contain the majority of taste buds—and, ultimately taste receptor cells.
3. Your Tongue is Unique
If you ever find yourself investigating a crime scene, be sure to dust for fingerprints, palm prints and, especially, tongue prints. Believe it or not but tongue prints are a unique biometric identifier and potential forensic tool.
Partially owing to the fact that everyone has distinct taste buds and papillae, everyone has their own unique tongue print. In fact, even identical twins have distinct and different tongue prints. Despite the fact that everyone’s tongue is unique, there are some commonalities in our lingual lip-huggers. Namely, the importance of taking good care of our tongues.
Watch Your Tongue with Dawson Dental Hanover
At Dawson Dental Hanover, we strongly recommend that you watch your tongue… not literally. That could get very uncomfortable very quickly. However, we do recommend keeping a clean tongue as an important part of any good oral and dental care routine.
Schedule your next appointment with us today and get your tongue wagging.