Saliva is a very important part of oral health. With regards to the topic at hand, saliva provides 3 important functions:
- Provides enzymes to help with digestion of food
- Provides a method to stabilize pH (keep the acid levels in check)
- Provides high levels of oxygen in order to keep oral tissues healthy and fresh.
If you suffer from dry mouth (Xerostomia) symptoms, you naturally have less saliva. In turn, less saliva means less oxygen. If there is less oxygen available in the oral environment you have an anaerobic environment, which is perfect for these sulfur-producing bacteria. In essence, the bacteria are now capable of making high levels of sulfur gases, which in turn make the breath and taste worse.
It is also true that some tongue formations are also more conducive to dry mouth than others. Generally, the rougher one’s tongue, the more likely they are to have a bad breath problem. This is connected to the belief by some that bad breath can be an inherited trait. Truthfully, one cannot inherit the bacteria of bad breath, but one can inherit a specific shape (geography) of tongue, just as one would inherit a parent’s eye color, hair color, height, and ear shape.
In the graphic on this page, one sees a deep groove going down the middle of the tongue; this is known as a “fissured” tongue and it may lead to a great deal of the anaerobic bacteria breeding at the bottom of this fissure, because oxygen cannot get to the bottom of the fissure (another reason why tongue scraping without oxidizing products is a waste of time).
Some people may have a condition known as “hairy tongue,” which again describes the fibers that make up the tongue (papillae), being slightly longer than the norm. The longer the papillae, the more rough the appearance of the tongue and of course the better to trap the sulfur producing bacteria.
Once the tongue becomes very dry, or if the tongue becomes irritated by extra hard scraping or brushing, the outer layer becomes very sensitive. One prevalent condition among older people is “burning tongue syndrome”. It is common among both sexes, but slightly higher among women. That fact has caused some scientists to believe that there is a hormonal component to “burning tongue syndrome.” Many patients who are diabetic may notice a burning of the tongue once they become thirsty. It is important, when one has these types of symptoms, to stay away from oral rinses that may burn or make your mouth dry. The resulting pain is indescribably painful according to many of my patients.
The standard recommendation for burning tongue syndrome and dry mouth is the following:
(among patients we have treated)
- Stop using oral products which make your mouth dry and/or contain sodium lauryl sulfate (see list of oral products at “Oral Products That Create Halitosis”).
- Stop drinking citrus juices (tomato, orange, grapefruit, etc.).
- Avoid coffee.
- Do not smoke.
- See your physician regarding possibility of diabetes or thyroid problems.
“One who tries the following in their daily oral hygiene can drastically improve their oral health and decrease the occurrence of bad breath.”
Daily Oral Regimen for Those who Have Burning Tongue Syndrome or Dry Mouth:
- Coat tongue twice daily with toothgel and let sit on tongue for 90 seconds.
- Rinse with 1-2 capfuls of oral rinse for 90 seconds.
- Drink 8 glasses of water per day.
- Take Vitamin C on a daily basis as recommended on label.
- Mints and oxygenating tablets can also be helpful.
Tonsils and Tonsilloliths:
(Those white-yellow stones that get stuck in your throat).
These bacteria can breed very easily in the back of the throat, and especially the tonsils, if you still have them. One important fact to remember: the bacteria never start off in the throat or tonsils. They only get there because the bugs originate on the back of the tongue which contacts the throat & tonsils every time you swallow. When someone has post nasal drip or allergies, it is possible to form little “white globs” scientifically known as tonsilloliths. They are a combination of sulfur compounds (produced by the bacteria) and mucous (from post nasal drip). Their smell is very strong! Do not attempt to pick them out yourself; you’ll cause a lot of bleeding. Many dentists and physicians don’t know what they are. They are not food particles, and it is not the sign of infection. Do not have a tonsillectomy for this reason because you will still have bad breath due to the fact that the bacteria is still on the back of your tongue. If you no longer have your tonsils, a similar reaction takes place if you have had a history of sore throats your throat is much rougher.