Book : Human Anatomy
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Posted by: CHELSEA
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Writer CHELSEA

Tongue

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Overview:

The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth of most vertebrates that manipulates food for mastication, and is used in the act of swallowing. It is of importance in the digestive system and is the primary organ of taste in the gustatory system. The tongue is covered with moist, pink tissue called mucosa. Tiny bumps called papillae give the tongue its rough texture. Thousands of taste buds cover the surfaces of the papillae. Taste buds are collections of nerve-like cells that connect to nerves running into the brain.

The tongue is anchored to the mouth by webs of tough tissue and mucosa. The tether holding down the front of the tongue is called the frenum. In the back of the mouth, the tongue is anchored into the hyoid bone. The tongue is vital for chewing and swallowing food, as well as for speech. The four common tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. A fifth taste, called umami, results from tasting glutamate (present in MSG). The tongue has many nerves that help detect and transmit taste signals to the brain. Because of this, all parts of the tongue can detect these four common tastes; the commonly described “taste map” of the tongue doesn’t really exist.

Leukoplakia:

 This condition causes cells in the mouth to grow excessively. That, in turn, leads to the formation of white patches inside the mouth, including on the tongue. Although not dangerous on its own, leukoplakia can be a precursor to cancer. So it is important for your dentist to determine the cause of white patches on your tongue. Leukoplakia can develop when the tongue has been irritated, and it is often found in people who use tobacco products.

Oral thrush: 

Also known as candidiasis, oral thrush is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. The condition results in white patches that are often cottage cheese-like in consistency on the surfaces of the mouth and tongue. Oral thrush is most commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially denture wearers, or in people with weakened immune systems. People with diabetes and people taking inhaled steroids for asthma or lung disease can also get thrush. Oral thrush is more likely to occur after the use of antibiotics, which may kill the "good" bacteria in the mouth. Eating plain yogurt with live and active cultures may help restore the proper fauna in your mouth. Additionally, medications may be used to combat the infection.

Oral lichen planus: 

A network of raised white lines on your tongue with a lace-like appearance can be a sign of this condition. Doctors often can't pinpoint its cause, but it usually gets better on its own. You can do some things that might help: Practice proper dental hygiene, avoid tobacco, and cut back on foods that irritate your mouth.

Tongue Conditions:

Thrush (candidiasis): Candida albicans (a yeast) grows over the surface of the mouth and tongue. Thrush can occur in almost anyone, but it occurs more often in people taking steroids or with suppressed immune systems, the very young, and the elderly.

Oral cancer: A growth or ulcer appears on the tongue and grows steadily. Oral cancer is more common in people who smoke and/or drink alcohol heavily.

Macroglossia (big tongue): This can be broken down into various categories based on the cause. These include congenital, inflammatory, traumatic, cancerous, and metabolic causes. Thyroid disease, lymphangiomas, and congenital abnormalities are among some of the causes of an enlarged tongue.

Geographic tongue: Ridges and colored spots migrate over the surface of the tongue, periodically changing its appearance. Geographic tongue is a harmless condition.

  • ¬ Burning mouth/burning tongue syndrome: a relatively common problem. The tongue feels burned or scalded, or strange tastes or sensations develop. Apparently harmless, burning mouth syndrome may be caused by a mild nerve problem.
  • ¬ Atrophic glossitis (bald tongue): The tongue loses its bumpy texture, becoming smooth. Sometimes this is due to anemia or a B vitamin deficiency.
  • ¬ Canker sores (aphthous ulcers): Small, painful ulcers appear periodically on the tongue or mouth. A relatively common condition, the cause of canker sores is unknown; they are unrelated to the cold sores caused by herpes viruses. Canker sores are not contagious.
  • ¬ Oral leukoplakia: White patches appear on the tongue that can’t be scraped off. Leukoplakia may be benign, or it can progress to oral cancer.
  • ¬ Hairy tongue: Papillae can overgrow the surface of the tongue, giving it a white or black appearance. Scraping off the papillae corrects this harmless condition.
  • ¬ Herpes stomatitis: The herpes virus can uncommonly cause cold sores on the tongue. Herpes virus cold sores are usually on the lip.
  • ¬ Lichen planus: A harmless condition that can affect the skin or the mouth. The cause is unknown; however, it is believed to be caused by the immune system attacking the skin and lining of the mouth.

Function of tongue:

It is an extremely mobile muscle that enables to ingest food, taste food, and move it around when chew, push it back to pharynx when swallowing, and is an invaluable aid in speech. The sense of taste is mediated by groups of cells called taste buds. The sense of taste is equivalent to excitation of taste receptors, and receptors for a large number of specific chemicals have been identified 


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