When it comes to looking after our teeth, many think that brushing twice a day and flossing are enough. But they still wonder why they fall prey to tooth decay. Well, the answer could be right on the tip of your tongue.
The secret to a healthy mouth? A healthy tongue!
We often overlook keeping our tongue healthy, but it’s one of the most important parts of our bodies. It doesn’t just help us savour our food thanks to the 8000 taste buds the average tongue has; it is vital in helping us to break food down and swallow it.
So with all the food particles your tongue sees on an average day, it’s important to keep it clean.
Common tongue issues
A coated tongue
If you have food trapped in your mouth, it can cause bacteria to grow. This doesn’t just cause tooth decay, but also bad breath or halitosis, as well as a film on the tongue which is a white-grey colour.
A coated tongue is not just caused by food; it could be the result of dehydration, especially if you have a medical condition such as Sjogren’s syndrome, use specific medications that lead to dryness, or you breathe through your mouth.
In extreme cases, it might be black and hairy which is usually a sign of a yeast infection and could be associated with tobacco smoking, low immunity, HIV and medical treatment. Even antibiotics can cause a black, hairy tongue, as this woman recently discovered.
Pain or soreness
There are other tongue complaints you might experience too. These include soreness, usually associated with ulcers which manifest as white lumps or patches. They’re more common in the younger population and usually subside within a few days to a couple of weeks. They can be caused by hormones, stress, bite problems, and even certain ingredients or foods.
More general tongue soreness is common in those with diabetes as well as those with low immunity or who have false teeth. The cause is thrush and is usually associated with a tongue that has a coating on it. Make sure to check in with your GP if this is the case otherwise it could spread and cause a fever.
Lumps and patches
Keeping your tongue clean
The best way to prevent tongue conditions and keep your teeth and your breath sweet is to clean your tongue regularly. Here are some tips:
- Maintain a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals and low in sugary and acidic drinks and foods. Your tongue is a muscle so keep it healthy with iron and protein-rich foods like chicken, red meat and spinach. Foods with antimicrobial properties, such as onions, ginger and garlic, can also help reduce the amount of bacteria you harbour.
- Drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Give up smoking and reduce your alcohol intake as it can dehydrate your tongue and lead to bad breath – not to mention mouth cancer.
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and use floss and interdental brushes. If you have a coating on your tongue, brush it lightly with a soft-bristled toothbrush or a special tongue brush after eating and rinse thoroughly.
- Rinse with or drink still tap water after eating.
- If you suffer from mouth dryness or bad breath, don’t use alcohol mouthwash as it can make it worse.
- Think your sore tongue is caused by additives such as sodium laureth sulphate in toothpaste? Consider choosing a brand without this ingredient, though ensure it still contains the recommended fluoride content.
- Try to breathe through your mouth. If you have a mouth guard that gives you a dry mouth, speak to your dentist.
- Attend your dental check-ups regularly, at least every six months. They may be able to spot dental concerns before you are even aware.
To book your next check-up, contact our Notting Hill dental team at Number 18.