The tongue is one of the most sensitive muscles in the human body and is the most flexible muscle of all. Its sensitivity is advantageous when identifying unwanted items in your foods, right down to the tiniest fish bone, a strand of hair, or a grain of sand.

Up to 10,000 taste buds are in the mouth, but only 80% are located on the tongue. The rest are scattered in the nose, upper esophagus, the back of the throat, the lips, and the palate. The lifespan of a taste bud is ten days to two weeks.

Taste buds are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. The little bumps on the tongue’s surface are papillae, from the Latin root word meaning “nipple.” There are around 400 papillae on the tongue. Each one is crowded with taste buds just below the surface, while the surface is covered with microvilli, highly sensitive microscopic hairs that send messages to the brain about anything entering the mouth. Because the tongue can instantly send so much information to the brain, babies instinctively put everything in their mouths to explore.

A child’s tongue has the same amount of taste buds as an adult, but they are all crowded together on a tiny space. This makes babies and infants super sensitive to tastes, which may account for their pickiness when trying new foods. Adults often enjoy foods as a grown-up that they hated as a child.

The tongue is one of the fastest-healing parts of the body. This makes it handy when a person burns their tongue on hot pizza. Within days, the tongue will be healed again.

Different tastes are split into five categories: sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and savory. However, it’s a myth that different parts of the tongue experience different tastes.

There is no sense of taste without saliva, which activates the taste buds. A dry tongue cannot taste anything. The word “saliva” comes from the same Latin root word that gives us “salve.”

There are over 300 strains of bacteria living in a typical human mouth. The number of bacteria in an average mouth equals the number of humans on the planet. The saliva, the adenoids, and the tonsils do a great job of keeping bacteria in check, though it’s essential to maintain good dental hygiene. The tongue’s condition can indicate many health issues, so doctors tell you to “stick out your tongue and say ‘Ahh’.”

Tongues are about 3 inches long, with men having slightly larger tongues than women (3.3 inches / 8.4 cm vs. 3.1 inches / 7.9 cm).

The membrane that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is called the frenulum, from the Latin word for bridle, referring to anything that restrains or controls. Sometimes babies are born with a frenulum that’s too short, hindering their tongue. This condition is called being “tongue-tied.” If it’s not surgically corrected, it can make it difficult for a baby to eat or talk.

When babies are suckling, or when adults are slurping through a straw, the tongue acts like a piston, with the mouth cavity being the cylinder: When the tongue moves backward in the closed mouth, it produces low pressure, which sucks in fluid for drinking.

About 80% of people can curl their tongues into a tube. Interestingly enough, in the case of identical twins, one twin may be able to do this while the other twin cannot.

If you’re right-handed, you tend to chew your food on your right side. If you’re left-handed, you tend to chew on your left side.

Every tongue print is as unique as a fingerprint, even among identical twins.