When we talk about a proper oral hygiene routine (and we sure do talk about it a lot!), we often put most of the focus on caring for your teeth. While brushing and flossing your teeth are important parts of maintaining a healthy mouth, there’s one part of your hygiene routine your dentist in Madison doesn’t want you to forget about — your tongue.
You may not pay too much attention to your tongue, but the truth is, this part of your body helps you perform everyday tasks such as talk, chew, and swallow. Of course, we can’t forget about taste! Our tongues are packed with over 10,000 taste buds that help us taste and enjoy our favorite foods. One of the strongest muscles in our bodies, our tongues have a bumpy and almost spongy texture, which makes them an ideal place for bacteria to hide, which is a concern for your dentist in Madison. In fact, if you don’t take good care of your tongue, it could lead to some dental concerns.
One of the most concerning ways an uncared for tongue can affect oral health is by increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Since our teeth and gums are in contact with our tongues every second of every day, it’s incredibly easy for any bacteria lurking in our tongue grooves to transfer on to our teeth or gums. When this bacteria isn’t removed promptly or when the exposure happens constantly, it can lead to decay and gum disease. Decay may require a filling, and gum disease can lead to more complicated problems and even tooth loss.
Many things can cause bad breath, but an unbrushed tongue is one of the most common explanations. When bacteria aren’t removed from the tongue, it can easily build-up, and if this buildup isn’t removed, it will give off an unpleasant odor. Getting into a tongue brushing routine can help remedy bad breath, but if it doesn’t go away, see your dentist.
Bacteria buildup on the tongue doesn’t only cause bad breath, it can actually affect our ability to taste. Think of it this way, the buildup essentially covers up your taste buds in a film. Without full access to the foods we eat, our taste buds can’t absorb and taste all of our favorite foods.
If a tongue isn’t cared for over a long period, it may begin to look black and hairy. That’s correct, not brushing your tongue could lead to a black, hairy tongue! How? When food and drink particles are allowed to settle into the tiny little tongue bumps (called papillae), it can result in staining, hence the black tongue. While this can be scary, it’s usually fixable by properly brushing your tongue regularly.
Brushing your tongue is an easy addition to your at-home hygiene routine and should be done every time you brush your teeth. All you need to do is gently scrub your tongue from back to front then from side to side with your regular toothbrush. If this is uncomfortable for you or if you have a sensitive gag reflex, you may find using a tongue scraper to be easier. Tongue scrapers are also effective at removing bacteria buildup and can help protect your oral health.
Make sure to brush and floss your teeth every day and to give your tongue some attention every time to keep your whole mouth healthy. Also, see your dentist in Madison at least twice a year for professional cleanings and regular checkups.