The Tongue and Bad Breath

Did you know most of the bacteria responsible for bad breath are found on your tongue? The tongue's distinctive anatomy predisposes it to become a reservoir for harboring the types of bacteria responsible for almost 90 percent of all bad breath.

Is your tongue causing your breath to be less than fresh? Find a mirror and look at your tongue. Of course, you can't see bad breath. If you see a coating or a color that doesn't look right, chances are you're looking at bacterial residues, a sign of halitosis. While most people brush their teeth regularly and floss once a day, far fewer realize it is just as important to clean the tongue.

Your Tongue and Bacteria

The microbes living on the tongue have been referred to as "bad breath factories." A recent study published by the American Dental Association confirmed people whose tongues contain large colonies of anaerobic bacteria more often have stronger smelling breath than those whose tongues are clean.

The anatomy of the tongue has much to do with this. The posterior dorsum of the tongue where taste buds are found is relatively dry compared to other parts of the mouth. The grooves, cracks, and fissures on this part of the tongue provide a perfect trap for food particles, dead skin cells, and sinus drip from nasal cavities. These substances in turn become a medium for bacterial growth. Tongue bacteria have a distinctive, highly unpleasant smell due to polyamines and volatile sulfur compounds.

Conditions that dry out the mouth can contribute to the tongue becoming a source of halitosis. Smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol are prime culprits. Dehydration can also be a factor since it concentrates bacteria on the tongue. Dehydration can be caused by inadequate fluid intake, high fever, or a medical condition known as xerostomia (dry mouth syndrome) in which the salivary glands produce inadequate amounts of saliva.

Certain infections like thrush can cause a white coating on the tongue and lead to foul breath. Halitosis can also be secondary to conditions like lingua villosa nigra, a genetic syndrome in which taste buds overproduce keratin, or "geographic tongue" in which the tongue has an unusually high concentration of grooves and fissures.

Fight Bad Breath by Cleaning Your Tongue Regularly

In the majority of cases, bad breath arising from the tongue can be treated through the simple process of cleansing the tongue thoroughly on a regular basis. Although most Americans are unfamiliar with cleaning their tongues, other cultures have been observing the practice for centuries. The procedure is called tongue scraping and is performed before or after you've finished brushing and flossing your teeth.

One of the benefits of regular tongue scraping is it can help combat the phenomenon known as "morning breath." Research published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science indicates people with chronic morning breath tend to have more acidic saliva than other people, and this manifests in a thicker coating on the tongue. This coating contributes to sour, unpleasant tastes and bad breath.

A proper oral hygiene routine not only includes brushing and flossing your teeth regularly but also cleaning your tongue. Tongue cleaning may seem strange at first, however, it is easy to integrate into your daily routine. These bacteria are also implicated in dental decay and gum disease.

Most mouthwash, breath mints, and other products may mask bad breath temporarily, however, they will not prevent it because they are not addressing the underlying sources of halitosis. Taking care of your tongue is as important as taking care of other part of your body and will help ensure your breath stays fresh.

Inexpensive implements for tongue scraping/cleaning are available at most local pharmacies and online. Simply place the implement as far back on your tongue as you can without stimulating the gag reflex and work the implement from side to side or back to front in a slow sweeping movement. After scraping your tongue, put a small amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush and brush your tongue gently. Complete your tongue cleaning regimen by using TheraBreath® Oral Rinses, which are specially formulated to reduce the amount of anaerobic bacteria in your mouth.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure, or prevent any disease. The information contained herein is for educational purposes only. Before initiating any new oral treatment, please consult your oral care professional.

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