1. Tongues need cleaning
Far from smooth, your tongue is covered in tiny bumps, called papillae. “The surface of the tongue can harbour a lot of bacteria,” says Euan Swan, dental programs manager at the Canadian Dental Association in Ottawa. In fact, a study at the University of Michigan’s School of Medicine discovered that about a third of the bacteria species found on people’s tongues weren’t growing on any other surfaces in their mouths.
Trapped germs on the tongue can lead to bad breath and affect your sense of taste, and the bacteria can travel to other parts of your mouth. Overgrowth of bacteria can turn your tongue yellow, white or even black and hairy-looking.
Make it a habit to thoroughly clean your tongue every time you brush your teeth. You can use a tongue cleaner, a small tool designed to scrape the tongue; it comes in various shapes and sizes. Your regular toothbrush will also do the job. Try to reach right to the back. If this triggers your gag reflex, keep trying. Eventually, your reflex will ease up. You might also find that a tongue cleaner doesn’t trigger the reflex as easily as a toothbrush does.