Our tongue – the most overlooked part of our oral hygiene routine
Whenever we speak about oral health, we are referring to all the parts related to the mouth: teeth, gums, oral mucosa, lips… and the tongue. Despite this, we normally ignore lingual hygiene, relegating it to a secondary role. This is why we believe that sufficient attention is not given to this organ which is so important for our health.
In today’s post we will give the tongue the importance that it deserves, we will show you how to look after it properly and we will list the most common illnesses associated with it. Moreover, we will explain to you how the aspect of the tongue can be a sign of illnesses and changes to our body that we must pay attention to.
What is the tongue?
Let’s start with the basics. The tongue is an organ of the human body situated in the mouth that helps us with many different activities that we do on a daily basis. Its function is not solely digestive, and its uses range from secreting saliva to helping us eat food and it assists us in detecting tastes through the taste buds, and thanks to its mobility, it is indispensable for speech and good vocalisation.
How to clean your tongue properly
Cleaning your tongue should always be combined with a good dental hygiene routine.
Just as we cannot trust that good dental hygiene routine will be enough to take care of our tongue, we should not assume that a simple cleaning of our tongue makes a good dental hygiene routine unnecessary.
Apart from good dental hygiene with brushing and regular use of dental floss, it is very important to have a balanced diet, as the foods that we consume can have a significant effect on the health of our tongue. It is also advisable to reduce the consumption of alcohol and to give up smoking completely.
The best way to have a clean tongue is to use a tongue scraper. The rough surface of this organ due to the presence of the taste buds means that it is relatively easy for food debris to bet stuck between the taste buds, and this debris must be removed to prevent the bacteria from causing health problems.
Even though many of us have also used our toothbrush to clean our tongue, this is not recommended, as the bristles of a toothbrush have been conceived and designed for cleaning hard surfaces, and this means that they are not suitable for cleaning the soft surface of the tongue. Some toothbrushes already have a zone especially designed for cleaning the tongue, and many electric toothbrushes also come with a tongue-cleaning attachment. The movement should always be from back to front to prevent bacteria from entering our digestive tract.
So, a tongue scraper is the best resource that we can use to clean our tongue properly. This instrument has been designed specifically for this function in the same way that dental floss or interdental brushes were developed to clean between teeth. It normally consists of a plastic head (or some other material that is safe for our mouth) with a handle and a different surface on each side. One side has a wavy profile that has been specially designed to adapt to the shape of the tongue, while the other has a special smooth profile for the sides of the tongue.
To use the tongue cleaner, stick out your tongue after cleaning your teeth and move it in such a way that it scrapes the tongue from the back towards the tip of the tongue. Do not press too hard as you will move it across the tongue several times, and you should clean it with water after each stroke. When the central part of the tongue is clean, use the smooth part to clean the sides and then repeat the process. To finish up, clean the tongue scraper. We recommend that you use a mouthwash as it will help to remove the last and more resistant bacteria.
The most common tongue diseases:
Now that you know how to clean your tongue properly, you now need to know how to recognise any problems that might arise. We will now list some of the most common conditions that can affect the tongue:
- Leukoplasia: These are white stains that can also appear on the inside of the cheeks. Generally, they have their origin in irritations resulting from traumatisms, tobacco or alcohol.
- Oral candidiasis: Also known as oral thrush, this fungus appears particularly in people who have a weak immunological system, and it is easily spread among humans. It normally causes an itching or burning sensation and it usually manifests itself as reddish lesions on the tongue or gums. It is relatively easy to cure with antifungals.
- Oral lichen planus: This condition manifests itself as white stains (lesions) in the shape of a spider’s web which do not come off with brushing.
- Geographic tongue: Cracks appear on the tongue making it look like a map, and this is where the name comes from. These cracks usually appear because of a vitamin deficit, stress or hormonal changes, and they usually disappear spontaneously.
- Black hairy tongue: The accumulation of dead cells on the tongue gives it a dark. furry appearance. This can have a strong visual impact, but the problem can be easily solved with thorough cleaning of the teeth and tongue.
- Halitosis: The accumulation of food debris and bacteria on the tongue can result in bad breath. Intensive cleaning is the best solution to this disorder.
Take a look at your tongue:
We have already seen that some oral diseases can be directly detected through the tongue, but this organ can also indicate diseases or imbalances in other parts of the body. For example, a sudden swelling might be the consequence of an allergic reaction or a secondary effect.
As you can see, the tongue is an extremely important organ of our body, and it should not be neglected. We hope that these tips have helped you to get to know your tongue a little bit more and that they will encourage you to give it the attention it deserves.Back to Blog