How To Properly Care For Your Tongue /h3>
When thinking about proper dental care, most people don’t consider what to do about their tongue. However, the tongue is one of your most important and most frequently used muscles in the body, and no healthy regimen is complete without regular preservation and regard for it.
In addition to chewing and tasting your food, the tongue serves a number of important roles. Not least of which is that an unhealthy tongue can be an indicator of other more serious health problems.
At Jody Jones, DDS, in Midtown Nashville, our entire staff is committed to promoting the health and well being of our patients. We work with you to not only address pressing afflictions that require immediate attention, but also to formulate daily routines and positive habits that prioritize long-term oral health.
What’s so special about the tongue?
The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth that plays an important function in the manipulation of food as part of the mastication process and is a critical component in the act of swallowing. It also serves as part of the digestive system, as the chewing of food and the mixing in of saliva, which is abetted by the tongue, is the first step in digestion.
Another major role of the tongue is as the primary organ of taste. The surface of the tongue contains a system of lingual papillae inside which the taste buds can be found. A properly functioning tongue needs to be kept moist with saliva, and contains an extensive system of both nerves and blood vessels. The tongue is also one of the key proponents of speech in humans.
Physiologically speaking, our tongue has two distinct sections. The anterior section is contained within the mouth and is referred to as the oral part, and the posterior section, known as the pharyngeal part of the tongue, is located in the pharynx, the section of the oral cavity between the mouth and throat.
There is also a cross section that divides the tongue on the left and right sides. It is divided by the lingual septum, which runs along most of the tongue’s length. Two groups of muscles make up the tongue. There are four intrinsic muscles that control the shape of the tongue, and four pairs of extrinsic muscles that move the tongue within the mouth. These latter muscles anchor the tongue to the bone.
Finally, the tongue also traditionally was employed as a natural way to clean the teeth long before the invention of toothbrushes, floss, and other modern tools of dental care.
What role does the tongue play in a healthy mouth?
With all these responsibilities, it’s no wonder that a healthy tongue is so important in oral health. A person’s taste and ability to ingest food are directly impacted by the tongue. But it’s perhaps the tongue’s role as an indicator of potential health problems that most concerns dentists.
Because the tongue is involved in so many functions, from eating to speech, this also means that it is exposed to the full range of bacteria and contaminants found in the mouth. Early signs of infection or disease can be indicated by problems with the tongue (which we look at more closely below).
Specific conditions that are directly impacted by the proper functioning of the tongue include plaque build up and halitosis (bad breath). One of the tasks facilitated by a healthy tongue is the passive cleaning of the mouth thanks to a structure on the tongue known as papillae. In addition to housing the taste buds, these tiny bumps on the surface of the tongue collect food debris, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other foreign substances.
So how do you know that something is wrong with your tongue? Let’s take a look.
What do these symptoms mean?
One of the most common problems with the tongue that dentists get asked about is the appearance of white spots. These can be a sign of thrush, which is a fungal infection. Another possibility is a condition known as lichen planus, which is a result of your immune system attacking the tissues of the tongue. Finally, hard and flat white spots that can’t be scraped away are a symptom of leukoplakia, a warning sign of cancer.
If you feel like your tongue has grown hair, these are mostly likely strands of protein that can be scraped off with your toothbrush. If they can’t be scraped away, they might be a sign of something more serious, such as Epstein-Barr or HIV.
A bright red tongue might be a symptom of Kawasaki disease, which is especially prominent in children, or of scarlet fever. Another possibility is a vitamin B3 deficiency. Whatever the case, a persistent red tongue should be checked on as soon as possible.
Another common symptom that gets reported to dentists is the sensation of a burning tongue. This can be caused by a number of factors. In some cases, it is a sign of nerve damage. It can also be a symptom of various conditions, such as acid reflex, diabetes, infections, or dry mouth. Finally, a burning sensation could be a signal of a food allergy or an adverse reaction to a particular brand of toothpaste or mouth wash.
What regular care should you give your tongue?
As obvious from the above, it’s important that your tongue is properly cared for, just like the rest of your mouth. In addition to regularly using mouth wash and brushing after meals, you should pay special attention to brushing your tongue on all sides. If you are worried about any of the above symptoms, you can also purchase a special tongue scraper designed to keep the tongue clean and free of infection.
Your Nashville, Tennessee Tongue And Dental Specialists
Having a healthy tongue is a critical part of oral health. The staff at Jody Jones, DDS, makes the long-term health and well being of our patients the top priority, and that includes proper care for your tongue via regular check ups and daily routines. If you’re worried about your tongue and the overall health of your mouth, contact us today to receive some of the most proactive and advanced dental care in Nashville.