Holistic and Cosmetic Dentist Chad Blog Series Part IV: What’s inside the mouth?

Posted January 10, 2012 in Home

In my previous 3 blogs, I discussed the roles of the following parts of the mouth: the oral mucosa, gum tissue, and the jaw joint and jaw bones.  In this blog, I am going to explain the importance and function of the tongue.

The tongue plays an essential role in our speech, eating, and swallowing food. What many individuals probably don’t realize is that the tongue is an extremely powerful muscle.   It is attached to the floor of the mouth by a frenum, which is a heavy duty piece of tissue.  The base of the tongue is  attached at the back of the throat/back floor of the mouth.   It is covered with oral mucosa (which the first blog discussed.)  On top of the mucosa lay thousands of papillae which we call taste buds.  Taste buds are nerve-like cells which relay taste to the brain.  The four common tastes that are signaled to the brain are: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.

When it comes to speaking, the tongue partners with the upper front teeth to create the sounds of our words.  Often times, when one is “tongue tied,” the frenum is attached too far forward on the tongue.  This  can create a speech impediment.  The frenum can be detached with a laser or scalpel in a quick surgery, thus improving tongue movement for speech.  The tongue is also considered an accessory organ to digestion.  It helps move and prepare the food to the back of the throat into the esophagus.

Conditions Associated with the Tongue:

Thrush: (yeast infection) typically occurs from a decreased in the immune system in the very young or elderly.  Also many individuals taking prescription steroids can get thrush.  Thrush appears as a white coating on the tongue, often times with red patches.

Oral Cancer: Typically oral cancers show on the sides of the tongue or under the tongue.  The lesions can be white or red.  A precursor to some oral cancers is leukoplakia.  White patches appearing on the tongue can become cancerous over time.

Geographic Tongue: Is a condition that can be caused by stress, spicy foods, and low immunity.  It is not a harmful condition, however can be unsightly.  The tongue appears patchy, meaning parts of the tongue are missing papillae and look red and glossy.  Geographic tongue will come and go, there is no medication to alleviate the appearance.

Burning Tongue Syndrome: Is a condition caused by misfiring nerves.  This is where the tongue feels a burning sensation or strange taste.

Canker Sores: These small lesions can be quite painful on the tongue.  The cause of these are unknown, however can be related to stress, spicy, and sweet foods.

Hairy Tongue: This condition occurs when the tongue papillae overgrow.  The tongue appears black and hairy in texture.

Here at my Holistic dental office we offer advanced technology to examine all the oral mucosa including the tongue for abnormalities.   We also make dietary and product recommendations that help to reduce many of these tongue conditions that I listed above.  If you are looking for a dental family who is focused on total body health as well as dental health, please call us at (951)686-3666.  Our Inland Empire Holistic Dental office is located in Riverside just off of the 91-freeway.