You brush your teeth twice a day, floss each evening, and even minimize your sugar intake to keep your teeth healthy, but aren’t you forgetting something? For optimal dental health, it’s important to keep your tongue healthy and free of bacteria and debris. To learn why this is essential and how to do it, our Fuquay Varina dentist, Dr. Hamby, is sharing why dental health relies on a clean healthy tongue, and what you should be doing to keep it this way!
What You May Not Know About Your Tongue
Before we dive into the dos and don’ts, we wanted to share a few interesting facts about your tongue:
- Your tongue is made up of eight separate muscles that intertwine and work together. Plus, it’s the only muscle in the body not dependent on the skeleton.
- You can’t see your taste buds. The little bumps you see on your tongue that give it its rough texture are papillae. Taste buds rest on top of them but within the surface tissue .
- While many of us are taught that there are four “taste zones” on the tongue for sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, it’s actually not true. One, there are five tastes – the four listed above, plus “umami,” a savory taste. Second, all five tastes can be sensed across the entire tongue, especially the sides, though the back area can pick up bitter tastes more easily.
Why You Should Be Cleaning Your Tongue
Every bit of food, everything you drink – it all comes in contact with your tongue, just like it affects your teeth, except your tongue is especially vulnerable bacteria due to the rough, bumpy texture. This gives bacteria the perfect hiding spaces to grow and thrive.
Unless it’s regularly removed, bacteria on the tongue will combine with saliva to form biofilm – a sticky substance, similar to plaque that doesn’t rinse away with water. Instead, it needs to be scrubbed away like plaque on your teeth. Otherwise, the bacteria within the biofilm will transfer to your teeth which can lead to cavities and decay, and it will also lead to bad breath. In fact, aside from gingivitis, bacteria on the tongue is the leading cause of bad breath in an otherwise healthy mouth.
A more serious issue is the papillae covering your tongue may break down over time. While these bumps trap food debris and bacteria, if they aren’t cleaned, they break down, which actually leads to an increase in biofilm and a likelihood of bad breath and dental decay.
How to Clean Your Tongue
While tongue scrapers are widely available at drugstores and grocery stores like Wal-Mart and Target, you don’t need to purchase one unless you prefer to. Instead, brushing your tongue twice a day will be more than sufficient to remove the biofilm and keep your breath fresh. To get your tongue properly clean, use a little bit of tooth paste and brush front to back to front a few times followed by brushing side to side, then rinse with water. Take care to be gentle when you’re brushing – you don’t want to irritate sensitive tissues or break the skin!
Schedule Your Dental Checkup Today
In addition to keeping up with your home dental routine (that now involves brushing your tongue), you also need a dental checkup and professional cleaning every six months. To schedule an appointment with our use the form below or call (919) 552-2431 to speak with a member of our team.