Did you know that we have, on average, 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds on our tongues? This allows us to taste the different flavors in foods. However, the tongue does much more than determine flavors; it’s an important part of your dental health.


Boy smiling holding magnifying glass over tongue sticking out


Here are the things you need to know about your tongue and why it’s an important part of your dental health.


Functions of the Tongue

Your tongue has eight muscles that work together to help you chew, swallow, talk, and taste.


The tongue can identify 5 different tastes:

  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Savory
  • Sour
  • Bitter


Bacteria on Your Tongue

Most of the bacteria in a person’s mouth is on the tongue. The bacteria are from both the environment and the foods and beverages you consume.


Plaque is constantly forming a film over your teeth and is  removed only with continual brushing and cleaning. Bacteria in the plaque feed on the sugars in the foods and beverages you consume. If left unbrushed, the bacteria produce harmful acid that breaks down your enamel, resulting in tooth decay.


You must clean your tongue on a daily basis to help prevent the bacteria on your tongue from attaching to your teeth and leading to tooth decay.


The bacteria and food particles on the tongue, especially on the back part of the tongue, also lead to bad breath. In order to have fresher breath, you must thoroughly clean all the parts of your tongue.


A tongue scraper is a great tool to help you effectively clean your tongue.


Tongue Scraper

Tongue scrapers are generally made out of durable plastic, with a long handle and a head shaped to effectively clean the tongue.
Woman using a purple plastic tongue scraper to clean her tongue


When using a tongue scraper, begin at the very back of your tongue and work forwards, also scraping the sides of your tongue.


Whether you use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper to clean your tongue, make sure to rinse your mouth out with tap water or an alcohol-free, fluoridated mouthwash. This will wash away the bacteria and food particles you scrape off your tongue.


Tongue Lisp & Thrust

Common problems with the tongue include lisps and tongue thrusts.


A lisp is a speech disorder in which a person struggles to correctly pronounce “s” and “z” in words. There are two different kinds; in one case, the tongue pushes through the front of the teeth and in the other, air escapes from the sides of the mouth because the tongue remains flat.


A tongue thrust is reverse swallowing. All babies reverse swallow to protect their airways, but most children grow out of it and learn to swallow more efficiently.


When a person with tongue thrust swallows, the tip of their tongue moves forward (sometimes pushing through their front teeth and lips), pushing the food back out of the mouth.


While a lisp can generally be corrected with speech therapy, a tongue thrust typically requires both braces and speech therapy.


Father taking a silly selfie picture with his children all sticking out their tongues


For the best dental care routine, remember to include brushing your tongue.


For more information or to schedule a dental appointment, contact A Beautiful Smile at Lake Pointe in Sugar Land, Texas. We are committed to providing you and your family with expert dental care.