A Clean Tongue Creates A Healthy Mouth

Posted on Jun 30, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The tongue is defined as: “the fleshy muscular organ in the mouth of a mammal, used for tasting, licking, swallowing, and (in humans) articulating speech.” It is also essential for efficient chewing by helping to move food around in the mouth.Tongue

The tongue is a pretty useful organ and is rarely at rest. However, it is important to think of the tongue just as you would other structures in your mouth. Just as it is necessary to keep the teeth and gum tissues clean, the condition of the tongue can play a significant role in supporting good oral health.

The tongue is a muscle covered with moist, pink tissue called mucosa. Tiny bumps called papillae give the tongue its rough texture. Thousands of taste buds cover the surfaces of the papillae.

As useful as the tongue is, it can also be a tremendous breeding ground for oral bacteria. Think about it, the tongue provides tiny hiding places for bacterial growth in an ideal environment – warm, moist and dark.

While saliva helps to rinse some of the bacteria from the mouth, it doesn’t have the ability to dislodge bacteria embedded in the tongue’s grooves. Oral bacteria tends to breed rapidly. And, when sugar or carbohydrates are consumed, their growth is accelerated even further.

An accumulation of oral bacteria in the mouth can literally be felt by running the tongue over the teeth. At the end of the day, you can probably feel a film in the mouth. This sticky film is known as plaque, which is oral bacteria that has accumulated since your morning brushing.

The tongue can help you keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum. In addition to twice daily brushing and daily flossing, brush your tongue with your toothbrush following tooth brushing at least once a day. If this is uncomfortable, consider purchasing a tongue scraper (available at most drug stores). Scrap from the back forward, rinsing after each pass.

Even though the rear portion of the tongue seems smooth and less likely to harbor bacteria, the most dense amount are actually embedded there. To uproot the little critters, be sure to reach that area (try to go no further than what makes you gag).

A mouth wash that kills germs without containing alcohol (which can dry out oral tissues), can also help. Also, drink plenty of water throughout the day to help keep oral tissue moist and limit sweets and carbs – for the good of your smile AND your waistline!

When plaque is not removed daily, it begins to harden on the surfaces of teeth. This is referred to as tartar or calculus. This is what makes your gums tender during your oral hygiene visits and what the hygienist is scrapping off teeth. Calculus cannot be brushed or flossed away, so your 6-month cleanings are the only way to eliminate this hardened form of bacterial buildup in the mouth.

Oral bacteria is the cause of bad breath, tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, cavities, gum disease and the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Simple measures each day can significantly enhance your potential to avoid problems, and the expenses associated with repairing them.

If you are experiencing bleeding gums, you already have gum disease. This will not go away without treatment. Call 828-274-9440 to arrange an exam at your earliest convenience.

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