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One of the strongest muscles in the body is the tongue, the organ that gives you the sense of taste. In addition, the tongue is imperative for speech as well as chewing food.
A tongue is covered with innumerable taste buds, clusters of cells that link to nerves connected to the brain. As a result, the tongue is able to distinguish four tastes: sweet, bitter, salty and sour.
There is purportedly a fifth taste, known as umami. This taste supposedly manifests itself when the food is mixed with MSG or monosodium glutamate.
In any case, all areas of the tongue are able to sense the four common tastes. Contrary to popular belief, a tongue does not have a clear-cut “taste map.”
Moist tissue known as mucosa cover the tongue, which has a rough texture due to small lumps known as papillae. Mucosa and tough tissue work to secure the tongue to the mouth.
A tongue is bound to the mouth by way of the frenum and the hyoid bone.
Tongue diseases and conditions
Oral cancer can grow on your tongue. You are likely to develop this condition if you are an avid smoker and/or an excessive drinker.
Leukoplakia, if aggressive, may give way to oral cancer if left untreated. This condition becomes apparent when the tongue is covered with white spots, which could not be worn off.
Aphthous ulcers—more commonly known as canker sores—are also known to grow on the tongue. You probably have experienced having canker sores at one point in your life. While they may look the same, canker sores should not be confused with cold sores.
Cold sores are sexually transmitted diseases, caused by herpes viruses; they are infectious, unlike canker sores. In rare occasions, cold sores may grow on the tongue, especially if the virus in question is Herpes stomatitis.
Viruses aside, fungi are also notorious for thriving on the tongue. For instance, the fungus Candida albicans may cause candidiasis or thrush, which covers the tongue with yeast. Thrush is common among very young or old people; steroid users; and those with weak immune systems.
There are cases wherein the tongue ceases to be rough, in a condition called atrophic glossitis. Your tongue virtually becomes “bald.” This condition may be attributed to anemia or a deficiency in vitamin B.
Several harmless conditions are known to affect the tongue. One of this is geographic tongue, wherein strangely colored lines and spots seem to move across the tongue. In another condition, called hairy tongue, the papillae can overrun the tongue, endowing it with a black or white surface. Finally, there is lichen planus, an immunity problem that can both affect the tongue and the skin.
A tongue may feel scalded or sense unusual tastes if its nerves are slightly impaired. Burning tongue syndrome, as it is called, is comparatively a usual condition.
Some people have enlarged tongues in a condition called macroglossia. This condition may be congenital in nature. However, it can also be the symptom of an inflammation or trauma. Thyroid disease and cancers like lymphangiomas can cause macroglossia.
Treating tongue conditions
Canker sores have a broad gamut of remedies. You can apply steroid gels or silver nitrate on them. In comparison, oral cancer and leukoplakia necessitate surgical removal.
You can get rid of Candida albicans through antifungal drugs, available in both mouthwash and pill forms. For a more natural approach, we recommend Candidate, a natural remedy to support normal levels of systemic Candida albicans and balanced probiotic flora in the body.
Viscous lidocaine can be used as immediate relief for an assortment of tongue pains and concerns. Meanwhile, it helps to take vitamin B supplements to treat a “bald tongue,” if not just to follow a healthy lifestyle.
Tests for tongue conditions
To see if you still have your sense of taste intact, a doctor may conduct a flavor discrimination test. This is done by applying four different solutions of a sweetener on the tongue.
To check for oral cancer, a doctor may simply take a biopsy or a sample of the tissue in question.