Tongue - Conditions, Problems and Preventions
Know your Body

Tongue : Savours, Salivates and Bonds

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 20 Feb 2014 - 00:00.

The tongue is located on the floor of the mouth, occupying the bottom of the mouth or the lower jaw called the mandible. The tongue is known to be the strongest muscle in the body. It is anchored on the floor of the mouth and slung at the rear by muscles attached to the spiky outgrowth at the base of the skull.It is covered by the lingual membrane which has special cells to appreciate the flavor of the food.

It is a reddish looking curvy organ fitting the shape of the curve of the mandible (lower jaw). It’s longer than broader and the front portion ends as a curve known as the tip of the tongue.

The tongue is considered as the main organ of taste. It plays a major role, both in eating and talking. It is covered by about 10,000 taste buds responsible for the basic taste sensations. Taste buds meant for a specific taste are distributed at specific areas of the tongue. For example the taste buds for bitter taste are located at the back of the tongue.

Taste buds for carrying sensation of sweet and salt are located in the front portion of the tongue. The tongue helps in pushing the food under the two sets of teeth for chewing. It also helps in removing any food particle which gets stuck in between the teeth. The front two thirds of the tongue is covered with small nipple shaped elevations. The back one third is smooth. Each half of the tongue (Imaginary division into right and left half’) is supplied by two nerves. The branch from facial nerve supplies the anterior two thirds of each half and the lingual nerve supplies the posterior one third of each half.

Tongue conditions:The commonest problem if the tongue doesn’t function normally is loss of sensation for taste. This depends on which nerve and which portion (right or left) of the tongue is involved. For example if the right side of the branch from the right facial nerve is affected, the patient cannot appreciate the taste of salt over the front two thirds of the tongue of that side where as the rest of the tongue can help itself for tasting. This again depends on several factors.

The common problems encountered are:

Congenital: Microglossia and Macroglossia seen from birth where the tongue is either very small or very big and thick.

Inflammations: Like in any other organs the tongue is also prone to infections and inflammations like glossitis, ulcers, coatings and fissures and furrows.

Injuries: The tongue is normally prone to external injuries like cuts and piercing injuries. Tongue bite is a common entity seen in many patients, which may be mild to severe.

Malignancy: The commonest variety is the hemangioma of the tongue.

Prevention from problems: Keep the tongue clean and scrape it with a smooth tongue cleaner regularly to remove the overnight coatings. Whenever there is bad breath it means there is some problem, consult a doctor immediately. Deficiencies of vitamins cause inflammatory disorders and need to be corrected immediately. Avoid injuries to the tongue by exercising greater care while playing with sharp instruments. There is one condition called Tongue Tie, which causes aphasia or inability to articulate and needs a simple operation.


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.