By Sandra J. Eleczko D.D.S.
January 31, 2012
Category: Oral Health
CleanYourTonguemdashItCanHelpReduceBadBreath

We are often asked about the role the tongue plays with bad breath or halitosis, as it is known medically. The truth is that everyone will experience it at some point in life; however, there can be a number of reasons for its cause. Some of these include:

  • Consuming odorous foods and/or drinks such as coffee, onions and garlic. This is usually just a temporary condition that can be resolved by brushing and flossing your teeth and using mouthwash. Also consider chewing gum containing xylitol, a sugar-free gum that both promotes saliva flow and reduces tooth decay.
  • Diabetes, a disease caused by a faulty metabolism of sugar, as well as diseases of the liver and kidneys can also cause bad breath. Be sure to always let all your health care professionals know if you have any unusual symptoms or you been diagnosed with any of these or other illnesses.
  • Poor oral hygiene, which causes gingivitis (gum disease), is one of the most common reasons for bad breath. And if your gum disease is progressive, you could eventually lose your teeth.
  • If you use tobacco and regularly drink large amounts of alcohol, you are dramatically increasing the likelihood of having halitosis.
  • And lastly, if you do not drink enough water to maintain proper hydration, you can develop bad breath.

There are more than 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth, many of which can cause bad breath. And the back of the tongue is where these bacteria typically produce Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC), the culprits responsible for the worst odors attributed to halitosis.

As for cleaning your tongue, there are two common methods. You can use your toothbrush to brush your tongue, or you can use a tongue-scraper. The latter can generally be purchased at a drug or discount store. The keys to remember are that a clean, healthy tongue should be pink in color and not have a yellow or brownish coating.

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Sandra J. Eleczko, DDS

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