Many common dental problems are caused by plaque and other germs that are on the tongue; therefore, keeping your tongue clean and healthy can eliminate some of the problems that can arise if you have an unhealthy tongue. The tongue has long been considered one of the strongest muscles in the body, but it is actually made up of a group of muscles. These muscles serve many functions; the most obvious being the ability to taste food, swallow and talk. The tongue is covered with a tissue referred to as the mucosa. There are tiny bumps on the mucosa called the papillae. The papillae are covered with your taste buds which are the nerves that are connected to the nerves that transmit to the brain. It was once thought there was a “taste map” of the tongue and certain areas detected different tastes, but actually all parts of the tongue can detect the four common: taste, sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
There are a numerous conditions that can be associated with common tongue symptoms, such as halitosis. Any discoloration or tongue soreness can be an indicator of a deeper health issue also. Some symptoms can be associated with more serious problems, including AIDS, oral cancer, scarlet fever and vitamin deficiencies.
The adult mouth contains thousands of types of bacteria at any given time. Some is ingested and some comes through the saliva. Most of the bacteria are beneficial to your health but there also thousands of types of bacteria that can be harmful to your oral health which can also affect your overall health. A relatively clean mouth can have up to 100,000 bacteria on each tooth and even more on the tongue sitting in between the papillae. For those that do not maintain good oral hygiene habits, as many as 1 billion bacteria can be clogged in between the papillae on your tongue. The bacteria in your mouth are competing for food and places to grow on your tongue and in between your teeth. Unlike other places on or in your body, the tongue does not slough or diffuse the bacteria. Some of the bacteria will die but other types of bacteria can survive on your tongue for weeks. In their prime, these bacteria can cause major damage to your teeth and gums.
A person can never really get rid of all the germs and bacteria in their mouth. The bacteria are constantly being replenished by your own saliva, but it can be managed by regular brushing, flossing, rinsing and drinking plenty of water.
Understanding that the tongue is a vital muscle and making sure you have good tongue health is imperative to your overall health. Eating a healthy diet, reducing acid intake and caffeine can be preventive measures for your tongue health. In addition to a healthy diet, brushing your tongue daily and maintaining your twice yearly dental checkups helps keep your tongue healthy.
Dr. Cowdin and her staff are committed to your overall oral health, not just keeping up with your regular teeth cleanings. We treat your entire mouth and provide you with most up to date information available.