When you think of your mouth, your first thought is probably your teeth. When it comes to oral health, teeth usually get all the attention. But today we want to shine the spotlight on a small but mighty organ: the tongue. The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth that is not only responsible for important basic human functions like eating and drinking, but it also helps make life more enjoyable by helping us talk and giving us the ability to taste. The tongue is invaluable, and to convince you, here is our list of the five most important functions your tongue performs.
Want to know how important your tongue is for talking? Try not moving your tongue and say something out loud. Could anyone understand you? Speech happens when air leaves the lungs through the mouth and the tongue, teeth, and lips work together to produce words. The tongue’s agility and speed allow it to use many different movements to form words. This is why a person with a speech impediment will spend much of his time in therapy looking at the placement of the tongue when forming words.
From a juicy steak to a bowl of chocolate ice cream, you have your tongue to thank for the joy of eating your favorite foods. The tongue has thousands of taste buds on it, and these taste buds are made up of taste receptors. The taste receptors transmit messages to your brain, telling it what it’s tasting. Generally, experts agree that there are five possible flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, or savory.
Sure, you enjoy tasting that juicy steak, but to truly enjoy it you will also have to be able to chew it. Once again, the tongue plays a huge role in this essential function. While teeth are responsible for grinding food, the tongue is what positions the food between the teeth. The tongue, teeth, and saliva work together to chew up food particles into small masses called bolus.
When your tongue has helped form the bolus, its ready to swallow. The tongue is responsible for pressing the bolus to the back of the throat, towards the esophagus, where it will continue to travel down your throat and into your digestive system.
- Staying healthy
Finally, you may be surprised to learn that the tongue helps you stay healthy. First, did you know that the tip of the tongue is the most sensitive part of your body? This ultra-sensitive part of the tongue helps keep you healthy by finding unwanted things in your food like a fishbone or hair. Another way the tongue keeps you healthy is by helping to defend your body against germs. The back of the tongue contains a group of cells called the lingual tonsil. The lingual tonsil’s main job is to help defend your body against germs that may enter through the mouth.
Now that we’ve convinced you of the importance of your tongue, you may be wondering how you can give it some extra care and attention. The good news is if you’re practicing good dental hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, you don’t have to do anything differently! These basic practices are a great way to keep your tongue clean and healthy. And don’t forget to visit your dentist for a routine checkup and cleaning twice a year. To help you maintain your oral health or to address any concerns you may have, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so make an appointment with us today!