Like most physical traits, everyone has a unique set of features. Whether it’s different colored eyes, hair or skin, everyone is different. This even includes tongues. While some people have long tongues that they can stretch to touch their noses, others can have short, wide tongues. The imprint of a human tongue, in fact, is just as unique as a fingerprint.
The difference is based in our genes. When we are born, our genetic makeup determines how we will look when we’re adults. It’s very likely that if your family is tall, you’ll also be tall. The same can be said for other features, like the skin and hair color and sometimes even tongue length.
But while looking to your family before you can be a good indication of how your features will develop, it’s not always a certainty. Some people will have long tongues for no specific reason at all, while other will develop short tongues. Women, for example, typically tend to have shorter tongues than men.
For most people, however, their tongues will be a regular length. The average tongue length is approximately 10 cm or 3.93 inches long, measured from the back of the throat to the tip.
The world’s longest tongue belongs to Guinness World Record holder Nick Stoeberl. His tongue measured 10.1 cm or 3.97 inches from the tip to closed lips. This means the length of his tongue outside of his lips is longer than the average persons entire tongue length.
Whatever size of tongue you may have, it serves an important purpose in our bodies.
The tongue is primarily responsible for how we taste. The average person has around 10,000 taste buds on and around the tongue, providing the ability to detect the 5 known tastes: bitter, sour, salty, sweet and umami, which is a pleasant, savoury taste. Every 10 to 14 days, taste buds die off and are promptly replaced.
The tongue is also responsible for a number of other functions within the body, such as chewing. Along with the teeth, it allows for proper breakdown of the food and swallowing which is the first step in the digestive process.
It’s flexible shape and muscles also help us speak clearly and properly, allowing for proper articulation of words and sounds.
The tongue is also a good indicator of overall health. Its color and shape can provide insight into possible illness that may otherwise go undetected.
A fat tongue, for example, can be a sign of sleep apnea, as found in a study from the University of Pennsylvania. White patches on the surface of the tongue can indicate oral thrush, a smooth tongue can be a sign of vitamin deficiencies, while an irritated, red tongue can be a sign of friction caused by under production of saliva.
A healthy tongue, however, should be a shade of pink without irritation or pain. Cleaning with a tongue scraper can help keep your tongue and mouth healthy while also providing a number of other proven positive side effects.
Whatever shape and size of tongue you may have, whether long or short, wide or thin, it’s an impressive muscle that helps to serve many important functions in your everyday life.