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Normal Tongue

What is a Normal Tongue?

A normal tongue consists of groups of muscles located on the floor of the mouth. It is an incredibly useful part of the human anatomy and it serves many functions.

The tongue:

Manipulates food for chewing and swallowing

Contains taste buds

Functions to allow speech

Is used in a vast array of human gestures and expressions

The human tongue is made of skeletal muscle that is well supplied with blood vessels and nerves, which provide for feeling, movement and taste sensations.

It consists of two different types of muscles:

Internal muscle

Extrinsic muscle that attaches the tongue to the mouth

It has two halves, which are separated by a v-shaped groove, the terminal sulcus.  The tip of tongue is called the apex and the blade of the tongue is called the lamina. A normal human tongue is connected to the mouth by the radix, or root and the back portion of the tongue is referred to as the dorsum.

The normal tongue has several different features that give it a rather odd appearance. The nodules or bumps that cover the surface of the tongue are called papillae. There are four types of papillae on the tongue:

Filiform (thread-shaped)

Circumvallate (ring-shaped)

Foliate (leaf-shaped)

Fungiform papillae (mushroom shaped)

Fungiform, foliate and circumvallate papillae contain taste buds, which are responsible for allowing us to taste the five basic components:





Savory (umami)

These types of taste buds cover the surface of tongue, but there is no specific portion of the surface for each taste. The two dark blue lines that are found under the tongue are part of a network of arteries that supply the tongue with blood.

Characteristics Of A Normal Tongue

A normal tongue, or one that is healthy and free of any problems, should be:

Pink in color

Covered in small nodules

Any change from this appearance could mean there is an abnormality or infection of the tongue. The papillae should be small and should not appear to be inflamed, irritated or lumpy. Abnormal lumps may be cancerous.


White spots or lesions on the tongue could be a sign of Leukoplakia. This is a precursor to cancer and should be treated immediately.


White lesions on the tongue may also be sign of thrush, or an overgrowth of Candida bacteria.

A condition called oral-lichen planus causes raised white lines to appear on the tongue.

Red Tongue

An extremely red tongue may also be a sign of a problem.

A condition where patterns of red spots appear on the tongue is called Geographic tongue. These red spots may be sore for some time, but will generally go away on their own.

Scarlet Fever

Symptoms of Scarlet Fever include a high fever and a red tongue and are caused by streptococcal infection.

There may also be some forms of vitamin deficiencies, possibly B-12 that will cause the tongue to turn red.

Some people may even experience a problem that causes the tongue to turn black and appear to be hairy. This is caused by bacteria that infect the papillae, causing them to turn black, but is usually not very serious.

Other Tongue Problems

The human tongue is also used in everyday communication. Problems with the tongue may disrupt speech or certain interactions such as kissing or whistling.

It is often used in piercing or tattooing as a form of expression. Piercing the tongue may create an infection, causing the tongue to become swollen and red. This should be treated quickly to prevent more problems.

Sometimes the tongue can be injured, from trauma or biting. These problems usually heal quickly.

Canker sores are annoying and painful sores that may occur on the tongue. Their cause is unknown, but they also usually heal quickly.

Know what a normal tongue looks like. Keeping an eye out for your tongue and noticing if its appearance changes are good ways to diagnose and fix problems with your tongue before they become serious.



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