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So you brush and floss and even use a mouthwash often to maintain your excellent oral hygiene routine. Did you know you can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease by removing the bacteria that like to hang out on your tongue? Read on to learn a bit more about this often ignored muscular organ in your mouth that works hard for you.

What is it? The tongue is on average about four-inches long, and has two sections. The front, or anterior, is the section you see when you look in the mirror and stick out your tongue. The second part is the posterior section, located in the back by the throat. The tongue is the only muscle in the body that doesn’t require the skeleton to function.

Your tongue transfers your masticated food after your teeth chew it, sending it down your throat to your stomach. Your tongue is attached to the floor of your mouth with a fold called the frenulum, and since the front (or tip) is not attached to this it can reach the top of your mouth to speak, etc.

Where are the taste buds? 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds live on the papillae, or bumps on your tongue. The taste buds allow you to taste your food and recognize five “flavors”–sweet, sour, bitter, savory and salty. Your tongue actually needs saliva to taste, because the taste buds don’t work if your tongue is dry.

What about the color? A normal tongue is pink on top and the underside is purple, due to the blood vessels underneath. A white tongue indicates a possible fungal infection. If it is yellow, it could mean you have a fever or stomach problem. Also, if your tongue is smooth on top where normal bumps should be, you may have an iron, folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency.

Does the tongue need to be cleaned? Bacterial build up help to contribute to a condition called halitosis. This build up is easily removed by cleaning it as you do your teeth and gums. You can use either your toothbrush or a tongue scraper. A tongue scraper is gentler on the tongue’s surface and won’t trigger your gag reflex, unlike a toothbrush. Gently stroke the top and of your tongue gently from back to front and rinse well. If you use a toothbrush, use a soft-bristled one, and consider using toothpaste as well to neutralize and remove bacteria, and finally, rinsing well. This little bit of extra attention can make all the difference for a clean and healthy mouth.

Please give our staff at Tetting & Tetting, D.D.S. a call if you have any questions or concerns about your oral health. We are here to keep you smiling!