What Does the Tongue Do?

tongue Credit: Images Bazaar/Images Bazaar/Getty Images

The tongue's main function is to help people eat. It promotes the sucking mechanism and helps transform solid foods into a substance that is easily swallowed. It also helps people determine flavors and tastes because of its rich supply of taste buds.

According to National Library of Medicine, the tongue and cheeks work in combination to expedite food between the teeth for chewing. The tongue pushes the crushed food up to the hard palate to get it ready for swallowing into the throat. According to Kids Health, the bits of mashed-up food that the tongue helps prepare for swallowing are called a bolus. The tongue's movements also compress the salivary glands to express saliva, which initiates the first stages of the digestion process, allowing food to slide down into the esophagus, or food pipe. The tip of the tongue is highly sensitive to the slightest touch, and because of this, the tongue effectively searches the mouth for foreign bodies that should not be swallowed. This prevents people from choking on small bones and splinters.

The tongue is also used for speaking. It works with the teeth and lips to turn sounds generating from the throat into recognizable words. It also helps defend the body against viral and bacterial invasion that can enter the blood stream via the mouth. The back of the tongue is rich with lymphatic tissue, and together with the lymphoid adenoids and the tonsils, the tongue helps the body fend off harmful invaders that can cause illness.