Human Tongue Parts, Functions with Details and Diagram

Tongue – Tool to Taste Delicacies:

Did you ever think that, without the tongue, you would have been unable to taste all the deliciousness of the natural world? Can the scientists create and install such a tool in your body which would make you taste things in the absence of tongue? Maybe the invention of such an instrument is possible, it can never work as perfectly as your natural human tongue.

Human Tongue

Taking into account the value of human tongue, this small muscular organ in your mouth cavity is a wonderful blessing of nature. In addition to providing a taste of the food, the tongue helps in manipulation of food for mastication. Its third important function is to help in the swallowing of meal.

Parts of the Tongue and Their Functions:

The human tongue has divisions into three easily distinguishable parts, namely, the apex, body and root. You can visualize these parts by having a side view of this extremely flexible muscular organ. The surface is divisible along the dimensions of anterior and posterior. Below is the brief description of the major tongue parts:

  • The Tip or Apex: The tip or apex of the tongue accounts for one-third of the anterior surface of tongue. It is highly movable and rests against the incisor teeth in the mouth cavity. The taste buds for “sweet” are present on this part. The tip also plays its role in the production of labiodental and alveolar sounds.
  • The Body or Main Part: The anterior two-thirds of the tongue form its body. The presence of lingual papillae on the upper side makes the surface rough. A layer of mucosa, on the other hand, keeps it moist. It is this part of the tongue where the tongue taste buds for salt, bitter and sour taste are present.
  • The Root or Base: The root is that part of the tongue which attaches it to the bottom of the mouth cavity. It comes between the mandible and the hyoid bone. The dorsal portion of the root lies in the oropharynx. Lying behind the mouth, oropharynx is the middle part of the throat or pharynx.
Human Tongue Diagram

Texture of the Tongue:

As you can observe in the tongue pictures, the human tongue has got a rough texture. It is the presence of tiny bumps, called papillae, all over the dorsal surface of the tongue that make it look so rough. The surfaces of the papillae, on the other hand, contain thousands of taste buds. The taste buds are actually a collection of the nerve-like cells. Nerves develop a connection between taste buds and the brain.

The upper most layer of tissue on the human tongue is that of mucosa. The mucosa keeps it moist. It also makes the tongue a bit slippery to touch.

The Tongue Taste Buds – Tools to Taste Food:

Human Tongue Taste BudsThe ability of tongue to taste food is because of the presence of taste buds on its surface. Meanwhile, different parts of the tongue sense only a specific taste. Different types of receptor cells help to distinguish between various sorts of differently tasting substances, such as sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty. On the tip, you will find taste buds for sensing sweet. Bind the apex and along the sides, there are receptors for tasting bitter, sour and salt.

Dorsum – the upper surface of the tongue – contains lots of lingual papillae. The papillae house the taste buds and the taste receptors. These receptors assist in the sensation of taste of different types of dietary components which come into contact with them. They are basically of two types, that is, sweet taste receptors and bitter taste receptors.

Additional Human Tongue Function:

In addition to enabling you sense the deliciousness of the food, the human tongue also performs a number of other important functions. For example, the additional tongue function involves the mastication of food and the act of swallowing it. Do you know any other interesting tongue function? The list of the some of the additional functionalities of the tongue is given below:

Human Tongue’s Role in Mastication:

After the food enters the mouth cavity, two processes start and go side by side, i.e. grinding and mastication. During grinding, teeth break down the large food particles into smaller ones. As a result, there is easy mixing of these particles with saliva to form bolus. Mastication involves the mixing of finely ground food with saliva. That is why you also call the process as chewing.

Tongue facilitates the process of mastication and chewing. Particularly, it helps in the positioning of food between the teeth. Secondly, as the food turns round, it mixes with saliva. Tongue has also a role in separating, sorting out and removing unsuitable particles that may accidently come with the food, such as bones and the ill-tasting soft or hard substances.

Swallowing Food:

The masticated food forms a rounded mass, the bolus, with the help of tongue. The task of this fantastic muscular organ does not end here. Its next duty is to expel the bolus into esophagus at the back of the mouth cavity. The food bolus then moves through the esophagus with the help of peristaltic movements and enters the stomach. Just imagine, how difficult it would have been for you to chew and engulf the food in the absence of tongue?

Tongue as an Organ of Speech:

You produce different speech sounds as a stream of air coming from the lungs leaves body through mouth. Your mouth cavity is home to various organs of speech. Different speech organs include tongue, teeth, lips, palate and uvula, etc. Here, tongue is of incredible importance.

You can realize the true value of this major speech organ only when it is not there. Different parts of tongue have their own part in producing and modifying sounds. For example, labiodental sounds are produced while the tip of tongue touches the upper teeth. To produce the /k/ and /g/ sounds, the back of the tongue raises against the roof top.

Being composed of a set of extremely movable muscles, it can quickly assume various shapes for the efficient performance of all the tasks.

Indicator of Health:

Human Tongue - Indicator of HealthAmong different tongue facts, it is interesting to note that appearance of tongue serves as an indicator of health. It takes time for the tongue to change its appearance. Therefore, the color of tongue at a particular time reflects the health of the individual.

For example, the appearance of a thicker white coat is the sign of predominance of cold in your body. It represents a weakness in some physiological function or a viral infection. The individuals with thick, yellow coating on the tongue are likely to have some bacterial infection or inflammation.

What should be the color of the tongue to indicate perfect health? When the color of tongue is pale-red, it means there is good circulation of blood in the body and you are enjoying a good health. As the color changes to nearly white or extremely pale, there should be something rotten in the state of Denmark.

Human Tongue Diseases:

Like any other body organ, the organ of taste is equally susceptible to various tongue diseases, including pain, swelling and the tongue sore. Different tongue problems are likely to cause changes in taste. In addition, there may occur changes in the color and texture of the tongue. Sometimes, the variations in the color and texture are also indicative of different diseases in other parts of the human body.

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