When we think about oral health, we often think of things related to our teeth and gums: brushing, flossing, avoiding cavities, etc. Most people are diligent about keeping their teeth clean to keep their mouths and their bodies healthy, but have you ever considered the other, often overlooked aspect of your mouth? Many people pay little to no attention to the health and cleanliness of their tongue, even when it’s helping do half of the work of chewing and speaking! While it’s true that your tongue isn’t going to start developing cavities if you don’t look after it, it can still be a hotbed for bacteria and definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Today, we’re looking into the bacteria on your tongue and giving you the information you need to keep your breath fresh!
First things first: a normal, healthy tongue will appear as a uniform pink color, with no signs of discoloration or white spots. Severe variations from this may indicate a larger problem. However, if you notice a thin, white film on your tongue, chances are that’s just a day’s buildup of bacteria. While unpalatable to think of, it isn’t cause for alarm and a quick brush of your teeth and tongue should get your tongue back to normal.
Bacteria and Bad Breath
While there will always be bacteria in your mouth and body, certain types are less favorable than others. Bad breath is caused by four main types of bacteria, all of which are known as gram-negative anaerobic bacteria. When breaking down, these bacteria form compounds that produce sulfur byproducts and cause bad breath. While these bacteria can reside anywhere in your mouth, they’re most likely to get missed by brushing because they live primarily on your tongue. Brushing twice a day and adding in a few scrubs of your tongue with a tongue scraper can help to remove these stinky pests!
Bacterial Good Guys
While there are bacteria that lead to unfavorable odor conditions in your mouth, there are plenty of good bacteria hiding out in your mouth as well. Studies have shown that most people have about 20 million individual bacteria—comprised of 1,000 different types—in their mouth at any given time. While there isn’t one exact type of bacteria that’s better than others, research suggests that the right mixture of bacteria leads to a healthy mouth and tongue. In general, your oral bacteria can be broken down into the categories of “gram-positive” and “gram-negative”. As noted earlier, gram-negative bacteria are more likely to be odorous and live on the tongue, whereas gram-positive bacteria are more likely to be found in plaque on teeth and carry less of an odor.
While it’s normal to experience a bit of bad breath from time to time, if you find that a thorough brushing of your teeth and tongue isn’t enough to knock out the problem, there could be bigger factors at play. Any dramatic and unexplainable changes in breath odor or tongue appearance that don’t subside after a few days should be investigated by your dentist.
If you have questions about the health of your tongue or mouth, give us a call at Fairview Dental Group in Westmont today!