ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Health»
  • Personal Health Information & Self-Help

How Much Do You Know About The Bacterial Colony On Your Tongue.

Updated on September 23, 2016

Microscopic View Of The Human Tongue.

This is a microscopic view of the human tongue showing three types of papillae on the surface of the tongue.
This is a microscopic view of the human tongue showing three types of papillae on the surface of the tongue. | Source

How Is Bacteria Able To Live On Our Tongue?

We all know that good and bad bacteria lives under our gums and around our teeth.

How many of us think about the bacteria living on our tongue?

My focus in this hub is on the bacteria that lives on our tongue. Just think about it, our tongue is warm, wet and, from the picture above, a very inviting place for bacteria to set down their "roots" safely, with a long term plan to grow and increase their population.

They also have an abundant supply of food to feast on and flourish. Why?

As you can see from the pictures of microscopic views of the human tongue (above and below), our tongue has far more than just the slightly bumpy look that we see when we look at it in the mirror or when we look at someone's tongue with our naked eye.

You see, the tongue is covered with projections called Papillae.

Note the space between the papillae. This is where large quantities bacteria are able to live on the tongue.

In fact, there are different types of papillae, which means different types of structures, all with deep valleys between them (saliva is secreted within some of the papillae). Leftover bits food and dead skin cells gets lodge in these valleys, this is what bacteria feeds on.

This is how bacteria are able to live and grow into large colonies on our tongue.

Tastebuds are Contained within the Papillae

Details of the structure within the Circumvallate papillae. Microscopic look of a taste bud (inset).
Details of the structure within the Circumvallate papillae. Microscopic look of a taste bud (inset). | Source

The Circumvallate Papillae.

The Circumvallate papillae are round, dome shaped structures rising from the connective tissue of the tongue. These papillae contains our taste buds and situated opposite from the tip of the tongue toward the base.

If you take a look at the microscopic picture above you will notice the tiny round shapes toward the base of the papilla, those are the the taste buds.

Note the bits of food that enters the papillae to get to the taste buds.

How much of those bits of food stays there do you think?

Bacteria are microscopic organisms that gets into every nook and cranny.

Microscopic Picture of the Human Tongue

The human tongue is covered with tiny soft spikes called Filiform Papillae
The human tongue is covered with tiny soft spikes called Filiform Papillae | Source

How Does Your Tongue Feels When It Is Not Clean?

Most of the papillae on the human tongue are the Filiform Papillae (microscopic picture above), these moves food into your mouth.

When there is an accumulation of bacteria on your tongue it feels like there is a dense coating over it. This is because dead cells, bits of food and other debris piles up between the papillae on your tongue.

View of Bacterial Build-up On The Tongue.

This is what a bacterial build-up on the human tongue looks like to the naked eye.
This is what a bacterial build-up on the human tongue looks like to the naked eye. | Source

Views of Bacterial Build-up on the Tongue.

Above and below are pictures of what our tongue looks like with bacterial build-up. There are over 600 species of bacteria living in a human's mouth.

There is speculation that there are over 100 million bacteria in every millilitre of saliva, some are good and some are bad for you.

Majority of the harmful bacteria in the mouth can be found on the tongue.

When there is a build-up, you can see a dense white or yellowish coating on your tongue, you are looking at the harmful bacteria. They are the reason that we need to clean our tongue thoroughly every time we brush our teeth.

To prevent an infection.

Did you notice, in the picture above, that the bacterial colonization is more dense toward the root of tongue?

This is because it is safer for the bacteria to live at the base of the tongue.

Microscopic View of Bacterial Build-up on Tongue.

This is an amazing microscopic shot of Bacterial build-up on the Human Tongue.
This is an amazing microscopic shot of Bacterial build-up on the Human Tongue. | Source

Some Illnesses That's Caused By Bacterial Build-up.

Some of the problems that can occur from a build up of bad bacteria on the tongue are -

  1. Oral thrush which is a fungal infection. Happens when the good bacteria on the tongue is killed off. More common in infants.
  2. Fissured tongue is a benign condition where a deep groove appears on the surface of the tongue. It increases the need for good oral hygiene to prevent bad breath.
  3. Canker sores are small ulcers on the surface of the tongue and should not be mistaken for cold sores and can cause high fevers if not attended to.
  4. A sore tongue can be a result of more serious condition in the body or bacterial and fungal infection.

These are some of the reasons we need to keep our tongue clean on a daily basis.


Normal Picture of the Human Tongue.

Mucosa is the pink tissue that you can see on your tongue. Your tongue is the only muscle that is not attached at both ends.
Mucosa is the pink tissue that you can see on your tongue. Your tongue is the only muscle that is not attached at both ends. | Source

Layers of the Human Tongue.

Layers of the Tongue showing the mucosa, the taste buds, the papillae and  the salivary glands.
Layers of the Tongue showing the mucosa, the taste buds, the papillae and the salivary glands. | Source

The Human Tongue and it's Functions.

Our Tongue is an organ in our mouth, a part of our oral cavity, so to speak. It is the only muscle in our body that is attached at one end only and is the only organ of taste.

Unfortunately, our tongue has the most inviting environment for bad bacteria to colonize. Although the tongue produces an antimicrobial peptide, if it is not cleaned thoroughly every day it can become a safe haven for bacteria that causes all sorts of infections in the body.

Our tongue has very important roles to play in our body's daily function. Also, it does a lot of work all the time, it's vital roles are -

  1. To Jump-start the digestive process of our food by guiding the food to the teeth to be chewed and assists in swallowing by moving chewed food to the back of the mouth to be swallowed. Food that gets stuck between the papillae on the tongue, creates a good feast for the bacteria living there.
  2. And the one we all naturally think about, Taste. Contrary to the old beliefs, all of our taste buds are distributed over the surface of the tongue and there is no taste map for specific areas of the tongue i.e the sour, bitter, sweet, salty, fat or umami taste areas. The taste buds can be found within a structure called the papillae which can be found all over the tongue.
  3. Our tongue can also sense temperature, and also helps the mouth to feel a food's texture, oiliness, chewiness, viscosity and density.
  4. The creation of Speech. Various positions of the tongue forms different vowels enabling us to be able to speak words, thereby giving us the ability of speech.

The tongue can perform these vital functions because the type of muscles that makes up the tongue are skeletal muscle fibers.

This means that it is attached to the bone structure of the our lower jaw. And, as we now know, the tongue is attached by one end only, this makes it mobile so it can be easily controlled to do all it's amazing functions.

Now the part of the tongue that I am focusing on is the surface of the tongue where bacteria grows.

You can see, in the picture above, the human tongue as seen by the naked eye, and, in the picture below, the human tongue as seen through a microscope.

Now the papillae is very useful to move food around, but as you can see they make excellent traps for bacteria and other micro-organisms that leads to bad breathe and infections that can travel to other parts of your body.

Taking Care of Your Tongue.

Brush your tongue regularly as part of your oral hygiene.
Brush your tongue regularly as part of your oral hygiene. | Source

Here is How To Clean Your Tongue.

You place some toothpaste on your toothbrush and start from the back of your tongue. Keep your brush moving in an outward motion.

Be careful to brush without putting pressure on your tongue. There is the idea that one should be scraping and brushing really hard to get the tongue clean.

Just regular brushing would get the tongue clean and fresh.

If you feel like gagging that's okay, spit and rinse with water and go back to brushing again.

Brush the entire surface of your tongue, rinse and repeat until your tongue feel free of any coating.

Finally you rinse thoroughly with an antibacterial mouthwash.

Rinse with an Antibacterial Mouthwash

Rinse after thoroughly brushing.
Rinse after thoroughly brushing. | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • GreenPrince profile image

      Prince Edike 3 years ago from Philippines

      This is a highly informative writing. Well done Skperdon.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you GreenPrince.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 3 years ago from Peru, South America

      The tongue is definitely a valuable body member! I always brush my tongue, although perhaps not as long as you indicate here. Thanks for this useful information.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 3 years ago from Canada

      I totally agree with you about the value of the tongue. Thank you vespawoolf.

    • Horia Pop profile image

      Horia Pop 3 years ago from Romania

      I always have problems cleaning my tongue as I have a very well developed gag reflex. Even if the toothbrush touches the tip of my tongue, I already feel a very strong urge to regurgitate. I almost choked to death on several occasions.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 3 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for your reading and commenting on my hub Horia Pop. I hope your gag cooperate with you, when you brush your tongue, very soon.

      The trick is to stop the gag reflex before it starts by lifting the toothbrush off your tongue then proceed after the gag reflex subsides. Good luck!

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 2 years ago from Peru, South America

      I´ve always brushed my tongue, but I didn´t know there was a specific method for cleaning it. After reading about bacterial colonies on the tongue, I will definitely be trying it! I didn´t realize there were so many things that could go wrong with our tongue.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Your comments are a joy to read as always vespawoolf. Thank you for your comment. I wrote this hub to enlighten readers about the importance of the tongue I realize that it's one of the organs we tend to take for granted.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Won't the anti-bacterial mouthwash kill the good bacteria too? I try to stay away from anti-bacterial products of any sort, but I brush my tongue religiously. Very informative hub!

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Intriguing question Mel Carriere. Unfortunately to answer your question would enter into the debate of "Mouthwash backfiring or not".

      But, I do use a mouthwash after the evening brushing and I do choose the topics of my hubs from my life experiences.

      Remember bacteria multiply by the billions.

      Thank you for your insightful comment Mel.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thank you for this very important lesson on oral hygiene and specifically the tongue. You make the fact quite clear, and I will pay keen attention going forward.

      Happy Mother's Day and a sweet Hug of the Day to you!

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for your wonderful comment MsDora, I'm happy to be of service.

      I wish you have a Happy Mother's Day as well.

      Thank you for the sweet Hug, I did need it today.

      Live well MsDora!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I agree we should always remember our tongue and doubly so for the smokers! Up and sharing!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      It is amazing what can be viewed using microscopes. I do brush my tongue but will probably do it a bit longer after reading this. Pinning to my health board and will share.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for the comment Jackie Lynnley. I certainly do hope that they take special care of their tongues.

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Lol! Isn't it? The view through a microscope can be pretty scary, especially it is a part of your mouth that is being veiwed.

      Thank you reading and sharing this hub Peggy W.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Really interesting information and certainly something most people don't think about enough. Voted up!

    • skperdon profile image
      Author

      skperdon 2 years ago from Canada

      Thank you Writer Fox. I actually experienced it a few times before I began paying attention to my tongue. A few bad breaths later then came my decision to write a hub on it.

    Click to Rate This Article