What Students in Dental Assisting Training Should Know About the Tongue and Patient Health

Dental assistant training teaches about the tongue.

Medical professionals have long known that the tongue can reveal a great deal about a patient’s overall health. It’s one of the main reasons why physicians typically look into their patientsa�� mouths, and why dentists might suggest further testing if they spot something abnormal on a patienta��s tongue.

Taking a closer look at the tongue can help dental assistants identify a wide range of potential health issuesa��from mild ones like nutritional deficiency, to more serious ailments like kidney problems. If youa��re planning to pursue dental assistant training, read on to learn more about the tongue, and the signs you might look for once you start your career.

The Tongue: A Guide for Students in Dental Assisting Training

Often referred to as “the strongest muscle in the body,a�? the tongue is actually made up of eight muscles; four that are responsible for changing its shape, and four that allow it to move around. Professionals who have received know that the primary functions of the tongue are to taste and move food around mouth. The tonguea��s secondary function is for verbal communication, or phonetic articulation.

The tongue boasts many blood vessels and arteries as well as special sensory nerves, including those used for taste, which are attached to taste buds on its surface. For a long time, people believed that our ability to taste sour, bitter, salty, and sweet were ascribed to different areas of the tongue. “Tongue map” posters were popular in dental offices, until the theory was disproved. Later research showed that all areas of the tongue experience the basic taste sensations.

What Dental Assisting Students Should Know About the Tonguea��s Texture

A certified knows that a healthy tongue has a slightly bumpy surface. This is a result of the capillaries featured within the tongue, which project from its surface causing a rough texture. Any other texture could mean trouble for a patient; here are a few examples of some common conditions:

Hills or valleys featured on the tonguea��s surface can be a common condition referred to as geographic tongue. It’s a harmless condition that dentists attribute to the shrinking away or regenerating of the taste buds.

Wrinkles on a tonguea��s surface is a typical sign of aging. Fissures or cracks on the tongue are harmless, but patients who have them should be warned to make the effort to brush their tongues often, as bacteria can get into such wrinkles and cause infection.

Red bumps or lesions could be early indicators of oral cancer. Of course, these should not be confused with canker soresa��which tend to heal after a few weeks. However, persistent red bumps could be serious, and patients might require further testing.

Understanding Tongue Colours As An Aspiring Certified Dental Assistant

A certified dental assistant knows that a healthy tongue is typically pink in colour, and sometimes can have a very slight white coating. Changes in a patient’s tongue colour could also be an early indicator that somethinga��s not right. Here are some colours to look out for:

A red tongue can mean that the patient has a vitamin deficiency, and is lacking sufficient amounts of B12 and iron.

A thick white coating on the tongue might mean that a patient has thrusha��an oral yeast infection. Thrush is common after patients have been on a cycle of antibiotics, and can be easily cured with help from a physician.

Brown or black fuzz on the tongue is typically due to poor oral hygiene. Patients who drink a lot of coffee or dark tea, smoke, or forget to brush their tongues may show up at the dental office with what’s actually called a “black and hairy tongue.a�? Dental professionals know that proper brushing can easily fix this issue.

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