Did you know that the average human tongue is covered with thousands of hair-like papilla, along with 2,000-4,000 taste buds? All those taste buds work together so you can taste five different flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.
Most people don’t give their tongue a second thought, but since it helps you enjoy all your favorite foods and also plays a part in your oral health, why not take great care of it? As a Southfield dentist, we realized that most of the recommendations you’re given focus only on teeth and gums, so you probably haven’t heard much about caring for your tongue. Not to worry – we’ve given you four great reasons to keep your tongue clean and healthy below!
Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
Gum disease destroys the gums and underlying bone that support the teeth and unfortunately, it affects millions of Americans. It’s caused by a particular strain of bacteria in the mouth that triggers inflammation of the gums, and in advanced cases, it can lead to tooth loss.
Since the tongue harbors many thousands of bacteria, keeping it clean each day also keeps the gums cleaner and healthier as well.
You can think of brushing your tongue each day the way you think of washing your hands – you’re removing potentially harmful bacteria before they can cause problems.
Your tongue is coated in thousands of tiny papilla and if you could look at it under a microscope, it would look a lot like a shag carpet!
All those tiny spaces provide an awful lot of space for odor-causing bacteria to hide, so even if you’re doing a fabulous job with brushing and flossing your teeth, you could still be missing a major source of bad breath by not cleaning your tongue.
Black Hairy Tongue
Believe it or not, “black hairy tongue” isn’t a made-up name – it’s a real condition! It occurs when the papilla on the tongue become longer and start to resemble short hairs.
When they become chronically stained, it gives the appearance that the tongue is covered in black “hair.” Cleaning your tongue every day is a great way to prevent this.
There’s normally a small amount of yeast present in the mouth, but an overgrowth can result in what’s called thrush, which is essentially a yeast infection that occurs on the tongue and back of the throat. If you suspect you might have thrush, don’t hesitate to call your dentist in Southfield for treatment options.
Good hygiene habits are a great way to prevent the excessive growth of yeast in the mouth and will keep the tongue clean and healthy.
What’s the Best Way to Care For Your Tongue?
You have two main options for caring for your tongue. You can either brush it with your toothbrush each day or using a specially designed tongue scraper from the store.
If you struggle with a gag reflex, try cleaning your tongue at night instead of in the morning when it’s more easily triggered.
With just a few minutes each day, you can make sure that your tongue is as healthy and happy as the rest of your mouth!
About the Author
All of the doctors at Signature Smiles are firm believers in the impact of great home hygiene habits on their patient’s lives. By helping them understand how to take great care of their oral health, they hope to prevent dental problems rather than treat them. If you have any questions they can be reached via their website or at (248) 557-5756.