When you consider your oral health, you probably think of your teeth and gums. While these are two critical components of your oral health, there is another area that is just as important, yet often gets overlooked: your tongue! Your tongue not only provides key information about your dental health and overall health, but it needs to be properly cared for just like your teeth and gums. Here are four things you should know about your tongue:
- Your tongue harbors more bacteria (millions) than any other surface in your mouth. It is covered in grooves and tiny bumps (papillae) that make it easy for bacteria to get trapped and grow. When this bacteria is not cleaned properly, it can cause embarrassing bad breath and even affect your sense of taste. In addition, tongue bacteria can travel to other parts of your mouth and compromise your dental health. To make sure your tongue is not a prime target for bacteria growth, brush your tongue on a daily basis. You can use a tongue scraper or your toothbrush, but try to scrub all surfaces of your tongue before you end your routine brushing session.
- Chronic dry mouth is a common oral health problem that can be caused by a variety of factors including certain prescriptions, underlying medical conditions and more. Without enough moisture on your tongue, it can be difficult to swallow food and even speak. A dry mouth often produces a tongue that is coated or has a crusty appearance. It is important that you get to the source of your dry mouth before it affects your oral health, as we all need saliva to rinse away bacteria from our teeth and gums and neutralize harmful acids in our mouth.
- Your tongue is not exempt from oral cancer. In fact, it is a common target. Give your tongue a personal screening each week. If you notice any skin changes, bumps or white or red patches that are not healing after 10-14 days, go see your dentist. Oral cancer caught early is highly treatable.
- Did you know that the appearance of your tongue can also reveal a lot about your level of nutrition. For example, a red, “beefy” tongue can indicate a Vitamin B-12 deficiency and ulcers on the tongue can be caused by low Vitamin C intake.
For more information about your tongue health or to schedule an appointment at Park South Dentistry, please give us a call.