CURIOUS TONGUE

Curious tongue is a term I coined while I was a dental student. It describes the reflexive actions, by a patient when any dental instrument is placed in his (or her) mouth and the tongue moves to the instrument attempting to feel the foreign body. I remember as a dental instructor in the clinic, after I graduated, supervising dental treatment in a patient that I treated as a dental student and saying to the treating student, "Dr. X please be careful, that one has a curious tongue." I learned very fast to block the tongue with a dental instrument, usually, a mirror or tongue retractor, when I was performing any procedure.  The danger of cutting the tongue which has a robust blood supply (note the color of the tongue) is pain and profuse bleeding.  Protecting and blocking the curious tongue is even more critical when the tongue is numb as a result of local anesthesia administered when treating a lower back tooth.  The patient won't feel the cut but the bleeding is just as profuse.  Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants have learned to manage this challenge to avoid injuring a patient during any dental treatment.  So every patient is assumed to have a curious tongue.  The real problem comes when a patient with a curious tongue also has a sensitive gag reflex.  That's my next blog.  

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