A tongue depressor is a simple medical device
used to depress the tongue to allow for a proper examination of the throat and
mouth. A tongue depressor is used during oral examinations to increase
visibility; the doctor will press down on the tongue with the depressor and use
a scope or light instrument to inspect the mouth for any glaring problems.
Tongue depressors typically take the shape of a Popsicle stick, or a thin
wooden blade that is smooth and round at both ends. As a result of their
function, a tongue depressor must be rounded or squared off to avoid any
puncturing of the gum tissue or tongue. Although modern tongue depressors can
be composed of medal, the most common forms, to mitigate costs and the spread
of germs, are wooden. Wooden tongue depressors are disposable, cheap, and only
used once on a patient before they are discarded. Historically speaking
however, a tongue depressor took on the form of many materials. From pine or
redwood woods, to balsa, and metals, antiquarian tongue depressors were
whittled or constructed from numerous elements.
The tongue depressor is a very simple, yet fundamental medical instrument. Although the tongue depressor is simply a rounded sliver of wood, it is essential to increase visibility and mobility when examining a patient's mouth or throat. Tongue depressors are also used when taking throat cultures, or collecting saliva samples to study possible infections or conditions within the mouth. Granted the tool is small, and extremely simple, however, without it's use a doctor would be unable to properly examine a patient's mouth for the presence of disease or bacteria.