Today we’re revisiting a topic we first looked at back in Blog#50 and that was quite some time ago! The topic is tongues. Often overlooked, tongues play an important, multi-functional role in our body and yet, I would venture to say it is one of the organs we take most for granted! We just know “it’s there,” in our mouth, and it helps us to taste our food but what more should we know about tongues? What is their relationship, not just to our oral health but our overall health? We hope to answer some of those questions so today – let’s talk tongues:
- It has long been asserted that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. In fact, this is a myth and the honor of hardest working muscle should more accurately go to the heart which pumps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for our entire lives! Plus, it’s also important to note that the tongue, as it turns out, is not even a “muscle” but rather a combination of eight separate muscles that come together to form the tongue.
- Just because it isn’t the strongest muscle (or muscles!) doesn’t mean it doesn’t work hard. The tongue facilitates our ability to talk, to taste, to swallow and eat and therefore it plays a crucial role in both the digestive process and our ability to communicate with one another.
- The tongue is actually the first stage of the digestion process, acting to compress the salivary glands. This process initiates digestion.
- In another first, the tongue is also the first line of defense against bacteria and viral infections that attempt to enter the body through the mouth.
- New research suggests that not only does your tongue perform these important functions but it also can smell – yes smell! Here’ how:
- We know that the distinctive flavor of most foods comes more from smell than taste. While “taste” detects sweet, or salty or bitter – it is smell that provides more detailed information about the quality of food flavors. The brain has long been thought to treat taste and smell as separate sensory systems but this new research suggests that human taste cells contain many of “the same key molecules known to be present in olfactory receptors.” This research suggests that, “together, the findings provide the first demonstration of functional olfactory receptors in human taste cells, suggesting that olfactory receptors may play a role in the taste system by interacting with taste receptor cells on the tongue.” We found these to be interesting results indeed!
A little bit more about tongues….
- A normal healthy tongue is generally pink in colour, and may or may not have a light white coating.
- A plate tongue might indicate an iron or B12 deficiency.
- A dry or “furry” tongue could mean too much dairy in your diet or is a sign of stress.
- A tongue with excessive white patches on it could be a sign of a yeast (Candida) infection.
- A rosy red tongue could be a sign of fever and bumps on the tongue could be as a result of inflamed taste buds, canker sores or cold sores. If bumps linger or are otherwise problematic however, you might want to visit your Dentist because they could be a sign of something more serious like a fibroma or cancerous lesion.
We already knew the tongue was a pretty important muscle but hopefully you found this blog a little bit more enlightening about just how important it really is! If you have any concerns about your tongue, sense of taste, smell or of course, concerns about your teeth, feel free to reach out to the team at Brinkley Dental to schedule an appointment. We’re your family friendly Dental office located in Brampton Ontario and as always, we’ll leave you with this reminder – “don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”