Friday, November 8, 2013

What’s the Connection Between the Tongue and Bad Breath?

Tongues come in many shapes, textures, and sizes, and variations in these different aspects of the tongue can increase one’s chance of having chronic halitosis. Unlike the oral mucosa that lines the inside of the mouth, the top surface, or dorsum, of the tongue is covered by approximately 10,000 miniature taste buds. These taste buds are responsible for your being able to experience the sensation of taste. As it turns out there are different zones or areas of the tongue that allow you to taste different things. For example: The front or most anterior part of the tongue can only taste sweet things, while the lateral parts of the tongue midway back on the tongue can only taste salty flavors. Lastly, the posterior part of the tongue can only taste bitter tastes. You can even test these areas out yourself by placing something salty on the tip of your tongue and see if you can taste the saltiness. You will find you can’t since it can only sense sweet flavors. Taste buds do come in varying sizes and lengths, and the longer the taste buds the greater the chance bacteria, mucous, and food debris may settle within the taste buds. Some people may also have natural fissures on the dorsum of the tongue and these can also harbor mucous, debris, and bacteria. These can sometimes be quite difficult to keep clean. The bacteria that are responsible for bad breath are known as anaerobic bacteria and these types of bacteria cannot survive in an oxygenated environment so they are typically found in the hard to get at areas such as under the gum tissue or deep within the taste buds of the tongue. If you have long taste buds you are in effect providing a more ideal environment for this type of bacteria to survive or even thrive in. The longer the taste buds the more rough the overall surface of the tongue is and the more easy it is for mucous and bacteria to attach to the tongue. The combination of the bacteria and mucous may result in a proliferation of the anaerobic bacteria within the taste buds of the tongue. These bacteria in turn produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) as a metabolic byproduct. It is these VSCs that one smells when a person has halitosis. Everyone produces these VSCs to some extend but under normal conditions the concentration of VSCs being produced is well below the threshold of what the human nose can detect. If there are excessive numbers of anaerobic bacteria the concentration of the VSCs being produced may reach the point that other people can smell them, and now you have halitosis.

About the author: Dr. Anthony Dailley is a practicing dentist that specializes in halitosis treatment. He has been practicing since 1981 and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Cell & Molecular Biology, and obtained his dental degree from the Pacific School of Dentistry. Dr. Dailley founded the Center for Breath Treatment in the San Francisco Bay Area and conducts research on curing halitosis. Dr. Dailley has also been a founder in a biotech company called NovaBay Pharmaceuticals and on their board of directors from 1997 -2014.