The Truth About Your Tongue
As a child, did you have the same satisfaction I did when you stuck out your tongue at someone annoying? As great as they are for making a statement, our tongues do more than express distaste for someone’s actions. They help us eat, speak, taste and digest our food. Your tongue is made up of many types of tissues and membranes that allow it to move and protect the body from bacteria. Thousands of taste buds that cover the surfaces of your tongue allow your brain to process the taste of different foods you eat. The four common tastes are sweet, sour, bitter and salty. The tongue helps us digest our food, by keeping it between the upper and lower teeth until it is chewed properly. Its flexibility allows for speech. While you may think the tongue is safe from most harm, there are conditions that can irritate it:
- Trauma. Accidentally biting your tongue or scalding it on something straight out of the oven can result in a sore tongue until the damage heals. Grinding or clenching your teeth can also irritate the sides of the tongue.
- Smoking. Excessive smoking can irritate your tongue and make it sore.
- Canker sores. Many people will develop these mouth ulcers on the tongue at some point in their life.
- Burning tongue syndrome. Some post-menopausal women develop this syndrome, which makes the tongue feel as if it has been burned.
- Enlarged papillae. If one or more of your taste buds becomes inflamed or irritated, it can swell and form a painful bump on your tongue.
- Certain medical conditions. Medical conditions, including diabetes and anemia, can have a sore tongue as a symptom.
- Oral cancer. Though most sore tongues are nothing to worry about, you should consult a doctor if you have a lump or sore on your tongue that doesn't go away within a week or two. Many oral cancers don't hurt in the early stages, so don't assume a lack of pain means nothing is wrong.