Did you know that most of the bacteria that cause bad breath are found on your tongue? Scientists say that nearly 90 percent of endogenous bad breath that isn't caused by digestive upsets or metabolic diseases like diabetes is actually due to noxious bacterial buildup on your tongue.
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. But if you see a coating or a color that doesn't look right, chances are that you're looking at bacterial residues that are a sign of halitosis.
While most people brush their teeth regularly and floss once a day, far fewer know that it's just as important to clean your tongue as it is to clean your teeth and gums.
Your Tongue and Bad Breath
The microbes that live on your tongue have been referred to as "bad breath factories." A recent study published by the American Dental Association confirmed that 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 with other parts of the mouth. The grooves, cracks and fissures on that part of the tongue provide a perfect trap for food particles, dead skin cells and sinus drip from the nasal cavities. These substances in turn become a medium for bacterial growth. Tongue bacteria have a distinctive, highly unpleasant smell thanks to polyamines and volatile sulfur compounds.
Other conditions that dry your mouth out can also cause your tongue to become a source of halitosis. Smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol are prime culprits. Dehydration can also be a factor since it concentrates the bacteria on your tongue. Dehydration can be caused by an inadequate fluid intake, high fever, or a medical condition known as xerostomia (or dry mouth syndrome) in which the salivary glands produce inadequate amounts of saliva.
Certain infections like thrush can cause a white coating on your tongue that turns your breath foul. 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 a tongue has an unusually high concentration of grooves and fissures.
Treating Bad Breath That's Related to the Tongue
In the majority of cases, bad breath that arises from the tongue can be treated through the simple process of cleansing the tongue thoroughly on a regular basis.
The procedure is called tongue scraping and it's performed before or after you've finished brushing and flossing your teeth. Special implements are available for tongue scraping which you should be able to find easily at your local pharmacy. 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 you're through scraping your tongue, put a small amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush and brush your tongue gently. Finish up your tongue cleaning regimen by using a mouthwash like Therabreath Oral Rinse, which is specially formulated to reduce the amount of anaerobic bacteria in your mouth. It's these bacteria that proliferate on your tongue, giving rise to bad breath.
One of the benefits of regular tongue scraping is that it can help combat the phenomenon known as "morning breath." Research published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science found that people with chronic morning breath tend to have more acidic saliva than other people, and this manifests in a thicker coating on the tongue. It's this coating that gives rise to that sour, unpleasant taste and smell.
Fight Bad Breath by Cleaning Your Tongue Regularly
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 but it's easy to integrate into your daily routine. The tongue's distinctive anatomy predisposes it to become a reservoir for harboring the types of bacteria that are responsible for almost 90 percent of all bad breath. These bacteria are also implicated in dental decay and gum disease. Although most Americans are unfamiliar with cleaning their tongues, other cultures have been observing the practice for centuries.
Most mouth wash, breath mints and other products may mask bad breath temporarily but they won't prevent it because they are not addressing the underlying source of halitosis. If you want to ensure that your breath stays fresh, it's as important to take care of your tongue as it is to take care of every other part of your body.