When thinking of your mouth, your tongue may not immediately come to mind. Nevertheless, it plays a crucial role. If you had no tongue, you would not be able to communicate verbally, taste or masticate food, or even swallow properly.
The tongue is comprised of several muscles that work in concert. Each muscular component has a specific function. The muscle located at the end of the tongue is used to make specific consonant sounds as it moves against the border of the front teeth. Additional tongue muscles permit the organ to change direction and shape, allowing the formation of more sounds that make speech clear. The muscle on the tongue's tip also distributes food, transferring it to the back of the mouth as you chew.
Shaped like a spoon, the organ has a rough surface that is covered by small bumps called papillae. These bumps contain numerous taste buds, which are sensitive to salty, sweet, sour, and bitter tastes.
Here is a bit of information about cleaning the tongue and the conditions that may result from poor tongue hygiene.
What Happens When You Don't Clean the Tongue?
Bacteria accumulate on the tongue, just as they do on the teeth and other oral surfaces. These microbes combine with particles of food to form a sticky mixture called plaque. Large amounts of plaque can build up between the tongue's bumps and crevices.
The plaque and the bacteria that it contains require physical removal. Here are a few conditions that result when the tongue is not regularly cleaned:
- Halitosis. Many of the bacteria of the tongue are anaerobic. These microbes release sulfur compounds that cause bad breath. The greater the buildup of bacteria on the tongue, the more malodorous the breath.
- Gum disease. The bacteria on the tongue, like those on other oral surfaces, feed on carbohydrates and release acidic waste. The acids inflame the gums to cause gingivitis and eventually periodontal disease.
- Dulled taste. The bacterial coating on the tongue can lessen your ability to taste food properly.
The tongue can also develop conditions, such as thrush, when the number of bacteria on the tongue is out of balance.
How Can the Tongue Be Cleaned Properly?
Cleaning the tongue is not a complicated process. You can simply brush the organ when you brush your teeth. Moreover, you can use a tongue scraper to scrape biofilm and debris from the surface of the tongue.
For more information about keeping your tongue clean and healthy, schedule a consultation with a general dentistry specialist in your local area.