The Tongue’s Role in Oral Health

Often dentists and physicians discuss the importance of oral health including gums, tongue, teeth, enamel, and even jaw bones, or the structure of the mandible. Sometimes people overlook the health of a very important muscle—the tongue. The tongue is vital to survival; aiding in speech, eating, swallowing, and even monitoring an individual’s overall well-being. Observing the tongue may help to study certain bodily functions such as blood flow, adequate nutritiondehydrationfunctioning kidneys, and potential threats like oral cancer.

Important factors to consider when monitoring tongue health are the color, shape, moisture, cracking, and coating of the tongue. By checking on such factors daily, individuals can help to eliminate bad breath, additional threats of cancer, and unusual and rare occurrences like black, hairy tongue.

Although harmless, black, hairy tongue, also known as lingua villosa nigra, may be indicative of dipping or using chewing tobacco. When it occurs, the filiform papillae, or textured parts of the tongue, grow in length and darken in color, giving the appearance of a “hairy-like” quality. Although harmless, such conditions may frighten individuals who are unaware of such situations. By using a medicated mouthwash or prescription medications, individuals can easily resolve such issues. To read more about how to monitor tongue health, please read more by clicking HERE.

How to care for your tongue:

Knowing to care for your tongue is the first step towards improving tongue and oral health. People can greatly improve their tongue health by simply spending an extra few seconds brushing their tongue with a toothbrush. Tongue scrapers also help to remove additional bacteria and debris from the day’s earlier activities. Utilizing mouthwash and mouth rinse, not only help to freshen breath, but also help to kill germs and bacteria that thrive on the surface of the tongue. If you are concerned about the appearance of your tongue and your overall oral health, please consult your primary care physician or make an appointment to see your dentist immediately.

Dr. Ash is the founder of Studio Dental Care. He earned his Doctorate at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, followed by two General Residencies at New York-Presbyterian / Weill-Cornell Hospital and the UCLA Sepulveda VA Hospital.

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