We humbly present a few of our favorite weird mouth facts for your consideration.
Most of the ten thousand taste buds in our mouths are located on our tongues, but none of them would do us any good without spit. When food molecules dissolve in our spit, the chemicals can be detected by the receptors on our taste buds.
Do you remember when your adult front teeth came in that they had funny little bumps on the chewing surfaces, or have you noticed them on your child’s teeth? Those bumps are called mamelons. The theory is that they help the teeth break through the gums. For most people, they wear away over time with regular chewing.
It’s easy to assume that the bumps on our tongues are taste buds. That’s true in a way, but individual taste buds are much too small to see with the naked eye. The bumps are structures called lingual papillae, and there are four types: filiform, fungiform, foliate, and vallate. That’s getting into a more intense biology lesson, but basically, all of them except the fungiform papillae have taste buds on them.
To tie it back to oral health, the trouble with papillae is that they create a rough texture on the tongue’s surface where lots of bacteria can hide. If we let it build up, it can leave a lingering bad taste in our mouth and a bad smell on our breath. It can even dull our sense of taste! That’s why we need to clean our tongues daily, ideally with a tongue-scraper.
The tongue is made up of eight muscles. Four of those are intrinsic (the ones that actually make up the tongue) and four are extrinsic (the ones that attach the tongue to the mouth and throat). The tongue has an amazing range of movements. It can lengthen, shorten, curl, uncurl, and roll (though not everyone can do that last one). We’d have a hard time eating and speaking if it couldn’t move in these ways!
It’s a myth that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, but it is true that it doesn’t really get tired after getting a workout. The reason for that is the tongue’s many built-in redundancy systems that come from having eight different muscles working together.
Around six weeks into fetal development, baby teeth begin developing. After another six weeks, the adult teeth get going. The baby teeth won’t finish forming for many more months, and the adult teeth for years, but it’s incredible how early the process starts.
Maybe mouth facts aren’t the trivia category you usually go for at parties, but as dental health professionals, it definitely our favorite. We’d love to hear any others you know the next time we see you for an appointment!