In need of some tlc? (tongue and lip care!)

In need of some tlc?

It is important to look after your tongue and lips as well as your teeth. Brushing your tongue and using mouthwash are some of the ways to keep your while mouth clean. Read on to find out more.

There is much more to the perfect pout than just fantastic teeth. Your lips and tongue are equally important in ensuring complete oral health. We use them to do the things we enjoy most such as speaking, eating and smiling, so it is important to know how to take care of them!

Your tongue is a bundle of flesh and muscles which are in constant contact with your teeth and lips, repeatedly throughout the day. It is therefore conceivable that your tongue has a definitive impact on the status, position and health of both your teeth and lips. It is not hard to find examples of people who lick their lips all day and end up causing lip dryness, chapping, soreness or infection. In other cases some have developed the bad habit of sucking or thrusting their tongues, which ultimately results in displacement or distortion of the normal arrangement of the teeth.

Know your tongue, Bitter, Sour, Salty and Sweet areas of the tongue

Know your tongue:

Researchers have discovered that cows have naturally formed antibiotics on their tongues. These natural antibiotics can prevent the infection of cuts in the mouth by resident bacteria and similar antibiotics are produced by the human tongue as well.

Taste is one of our five special senses which we use to differentiate between sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. Receptors in the taste buds are located on different parts of our mouths including the surface and sides of the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the entrance of the throat. The skin lining these areas is covered with tiny projections called papillae, which are made up of 200 to 300 taste buds.

The papillae located at the back of the tongue transmit the sensation of bitterness, while those at the tip of the tongue transmit sweetness. Saltiness and sourness are transmitted from the papillae on the sides of the tongue. The taste buds require any substance in the mouth to mix with saliva to be stimulated before they can transmit impulses directly to the brain. Sensations of taste have been determined to be strongly interrelated with sensations of smell.

It is important that your tongue is kept clean and healthy so that it can function properly.

Facts about your Lips and Tongue:

  • Your tongue is a sense organ, comprising of different taste buds that detect sweet, sour, salty and bitter sensations. On average each person has 10,000 and these are replaced every 2 weeks or so.
  • Cold Sores on the lips are caused by the Herpes Simplex 1 virus. They are contagious, and an outbreak is usually caused by stress, or emotional trauma.
  • The tongue is the most likely culprit of bad breath due to substances called mercaptans, which can be found in foods such as garlic, onions and beer. Unfortunately they have the distinctive smell of rotten cabbage, but regular cleaning of the tongue will help to keep this under control.
  • Tongue piercings are not the healthiest fad! The risks involved with having such piercings include fracturing your teeth, infection which may occur when foreign debris gets stuck, and perhaps most importantly interference with your breathing should you be unfortunate enough to accidentally inhale or swallow it!
  • The condition ‘tongue tie’ is also known as Ankyloglossia - this occurs when the skin that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short. The tongue is pulled down and is restricted in its range of movement. The consequences of leaving this untreated are speech impediments and distortion of the teeth and face.
  • Tongue Thrust – This is a condition which most people are born with, but it consequently disappears during normal growth. It involves the tongue protruding from the mouth during day to day actions such as speaking or eating. If you have this condition your orthodontist could help to resolve it by prescribing a tongue screen or tongue trainer.
  • Ulcers: If you’ve had an ulcer on your tongue for more than a week and it does not appear to be healing, visit your dentist as soon as possible, as it could be a sign of tongue cancer.
  • Patches: If you have a white patch on your tongue it could be due to smoking, excessive alcohol use or a local irritation. Red patches could signify folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiency.

Hints and Tips on Tongue and Lip Care:

  • As well as brushing your teeth, you need to ensure that you also clean your tongue thoroughly and often. This can be done with a regular toothbrush or a tongue scraper.
  • In the majority of cases bad breath originates from the rear of the tongue, and cleaning this area with an ergonomically designed tongue cleaner can usually prevent this.
  • Using a mouthwash is an important part of maintaining oral hygiene, and if you suffer from bad breath it may be advisable to use a prescribed mouthwash to reduce the bacteria responsible.
  • Your lips are very sensitive to the outside elements. They are prone to burning and chapping in particularly hot or cold climates. This can be prevented by using a lip balm with a high SPF, and regularly exfoliating them gently with a toothbrush.

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