The Role of Your Tongue in Oral Health

The Role of Your Tongue in Oral Health

The human tongue consists of a collection of muscles and nerves with a mucous membrane and dense connective tissue that enables it to stay attached to the floor of the mouth. The movable muscles of the tongue make it possible for people to eat, speak, swallow, and complete several other functions.

The Tongue’s Role in Eating and Breaking Down Food

Perhaps you have heard people use the expression “tickle your taste buds” when referring to food that tastes especially good and wondered if taste buds actually exist. Not only do taste buds exist, but your tongue has three distinct types that replace themselves approximately every 12 days. The three types of taste buds include:

Each type of taste bud contains five unique cells that can detect sensations such as bitter, salty, savory, sour, and sweet. When you repeatedly eat food with a specific sensation, your taste buds learn to favor it and initially reject other sensations. This partially explains why some people become hooked on sweet and salty snacks despite their minimal nutritional value.

After you bite into food, the tongue helps to provide saliva and move the food around in your mouth for additional chewing. Another important function of the tongue is to prevent food from having prolonged contact with teeth. Tooth decay is the typical result when sugar, starch, and other food ingredients break down inside the mouth and remain on the teeth.

The tongue is responsible for breaking down food and rounding it into a mass known as a bolus. The final role the tongue plays in eating is to push the bolus down the esophagus at the back of your throat where your body will break it down further and deliver it to cells to produce energy.

How to Take Great Care of Your Tongue

If you do not already have your tongue pierced, we recommend that you avoid doing so to prevent possible infection later. Studs in your tongue can also interfere with its proper functioning, such as keeping food particles off your teeth.

Each time you brush and floss your teeth, be sure to brush your tongue as well. You can brush it with a regular toothbrush or invest in a tongue scraper to remove excess buildup. Some people claim that using a tongue scraper can lead to fresher breath, but that statement remains unproven. Our dental team also checks the tongue for signs of oral cancer or other health problems during each dental check-up.

Schedule an Appointment

If you have not had a preventive care exam in more than six months, find your local Ideal Dental office to schedule an appointment today.