Your tongue is not the strongest muscle in your body. Despite this oft-quoted myth, your tongue is pretty strong and unique. It’s actually a group of eight muscles that are all interconnected, and they’re the only ones in the human body that move independently from your skeleton.
Without your tongue, talking, swallowing, eating and many other tasks would be much more difficult, if not impossible. While it doesn’t hold a record for being the strongest muscle, or the most flexible, it has a surprising amount of stamina for such a tiny body part. Taking adequate care of this muscular matrix is just as important as ensuring you have healthy teeth and gums.
Take a Look
Did you ever wonder what your tongue is supposed to look like in terms of color and texture? A healthy tongue ranges in shade from light to moderate pink. It’s possible you have a thin white coating on your tongue — this is usually not cause for alarm. Looking at your tongue and taking note of what’s going on can help you gauge your health.
If your tongue’s color changes to a bright red hue, for example, you may be at risk of an infection and should speak with your doctor or dentist. If your tongue is paler than usual, it’s possible you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 and should seek the advice of a medical professional.
Take note of any coatings on your tongue: a thick, white film could be indicative of dehydration, oral thrush or even more serious issues. Black, green or otherwise discolored coatings should be examined by a dental or medical professional as soon as possible, unless you’ve been eating food with artificial colorings that could turn your tongue a wild tone. Make note of any unusual lumps or bumps and bring them up at your next appointment.
Keep It Clean
If you brush and floss regularly but still can’t seem to shake the funk from your breath, your tongue might be to blame. Your tongue is actually the home of the largest number of bacteria in your mouth, so it’s important to brush it whenever you brush your teeth and gums.
While brushing with a toothbrush and toothpaste is usually enough to keep the microbiome of your tongue in check, your unique anatomy may mean you need to get a deeper clean than most. Your dentist can advise whether a tongue scraper would be beneficial to remove the mucus layer and bacteria that stick to the surface.
Nurture Your Tongue
Just like water is the best beverage for your overall oral health, it’s the best thing for your tongue. If you can’t brush right away after a meal, a swish with water is a great way to hold yourself over until you can properly clean your mouth. But water plays an even more important part in making your tongue look and feel fresh.
When you’re dehydrated, your tongue is not performing optimally. It might feel dry, rough or even hairy or gunky. Ensuring adequate hydration with fresh, clean water throughout the day can go a long way in maintaining the health of your tongue.
If you’re tired of water, green tea may be the next best thing. The flavonoids in green tea help reduce the overall number of bacteria in your mouth — tongue included! Any additives like sugar can fuel bacterial growth, so if you’re looking to have a good cuppa, skip the sugar and enjoy the beverage’s natural flavoring.
Talk to Your Dentist
There’s no need to be embarrassed to ask your dentist questions about your tongue: it’s all part of the job! Whether you’re wondering if something is “normal” or if you suspect a problem or just need advice on the best way to manage this muscular mouth appendage, don’t be afraid to speak up.
At the office of Drs. Krieger and Hur, we see a wide variety of patients for every concern you can think of. The first step to getting your tongue questions answered is to book an appointment for a checkup and cleaning. You can reach our office via phone at (201) 560-0606. If you’re trying to arrange your schedule on the go, you can also click here to send us an email to secure your spot.
We take pride in giving the best care in a friendly, low-stress environment. Feel free to mention your concerns when you book your appointment, and our staff will be eager and ready to take a look and address them when you arrive.