Bacteria on Tongue – What are They & How to Get Rid of Them?

If you think brushing your teeth is enough for healthy oral cavity, then you are wrong. Taking care of soft tissues, such as tongue, gums, etc., is equally important to maintain good oral health.

The tongue is a highly vascular fleshy organ which gives a place for bacteria to grow. Hence, keeping the hygiene of the tongue is essential to prevent bacterial growth in the oral cavity.


Poor oral hygiene maintenance and the inability to clean the tongue, increase the number of bacterial colonies on the tongue surface.

These bacteria include gram-positive and gram-negative bacterial groups. To your surprise, not all the bacteria damage the oral health.

Some of them also help to fight against the foreign objects and modifies the host’s immunity.

However, the harmful bacteria on the tongue surface evade the oral tissue. Hence, timely cleaning of the tongue is necessary.

If you overlook the tongue while cleaning your oral cavity, then you may develop bad breath, inactive taste buds, yeast infection, etc.

Let us move ahead to know more about the tongue and bacteria associated with it.

What does a healthy tongue look like?

A tongue is the fleshy muscular organ which is pink in color and covered by the papillae. The tongue provides your sense of taste and helps in swallowing, speech, etc. 

Usually, tongue appears pink in color with no signs of inflammation. However, if you see the white coating over the tongue surface, that it may be an alarming sign for you.

Alteration in the tongue appearance may not always be associated with poor oral health. But, still, most of the times the changes in tongue seen as the symptom of an underlined disease.

Your tongue not only talks about oral health standards but represents the overall health status.

Tongue bacteria

Your oral cavity contains numerous bacteria which are responsible for poor health. Surprisingly, not all the bacteria are hazardous to the oral cavity and destructive in action.

So, your mouth full of bacteria is not the problem. It might be a good thing.

Among the tons of bacteria which reside in our mouth, most of the bacteria act to protect the mouth from any foreign object.

Only some part of bacteria are harmful and damage your oral health. The bacteria categorized in two types as gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria.

Gram-negative bacteria are anaerobic and do not require oxygen for their survival. These bacteria are destructive and produce the sulfur compound which gives your mouth a bad smell. (1)

Gram-positive bacteria accumulate on the hard and soft tissue of the oral cavity. They are often present in plaque.

What happens when you do not clean your tongue?

If you fail to maintain the hygiene of your tongue, then you might unknowingly invite many health troubles.

A filthy tongue often shows white or yellow coating on its surface, discoloration, change in size and inflammatory symptoms.

If you fail to clean the tongue, bacteria get accumulated on the tongue surface and grow in number (2). The increased bacterial count destroy your oral health status and create dental issues such as –

  • Bad breath – If you do no clean the tongue correctly, colonies of bacteria will develop on the tongue. They produce volatile sulfur compounds which cause foul breath. You cannot see the bacteria through your naked eyes, but brushing tongue will help you to get rid of them. (3)
  • Inactive taste buds – When we eat or drink anything, a layer forms on the tongue surface. If you do not brush your tongue regularly, the debris forms the coating over the tongue. The coating over unhealthy tongue consists of food particle, bacteria and dead cells which covers the taste buds on the tongue, making you unable to taste things. Regular cleaning will keep the taste buds clean and active.
  • Yeast infection – Yeast growth commonly noticed over the unhealthy tongue. Yeast growth in the mouth may cause severe illnesses.

When to see a doctor?

We can reasonably discriminate between the healthy and unhealthy tongue. Whenever you notice any abnormal changes with the tongue, do not hesitate to see your doctor.

Remember, the ignored tongue infection on further progress causes serious health tissue which may threaten your life.

Poor oral health causes tongue illnesses such as leukoplakia, erythroplakia, lichen planus, oral thrush, etc. See your doctor, if you notice any of the following changes on your tongue –

  • Color change.
  • Inflammation of tongue.
  • Swollen tongue.
  • Hairy growth on the tongue.
  • The appearance of a red or white patch, abnormal mass or bumps on the tongue.
  • The appearance of tongue coating which cannot be scrapped out.
  • Feeling of pain and burning sensation of a tongue.
  • Depapillation of the tongue.
  • Soreness of the tongue.
  • Change in tongue size and texture.


To keep your tongue healthy follow the following preventive measures –

  • Follow basic oral hygiene regimen such as brush and floss your teeth regularly. A healthy oral cavity gives your mouth a healthy environment and prevents the tongue from bacterial attack.
  • Use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue. Tongue scraper removes bacteria, improve the taste sense and appearance of the tongue. It also helps to reduce the bad breath. (4)
  • Use therapeutic mouthwash as it dislodges the accumulated debris and bacteria from the tongue.

Over to you

Tongue gives a favorable environment for bacterial growth. An unhealthy tongue is associated with numerous bacteria and shows alteration in normal appearance.

Unhealthy tongue presents signs such as discoloration, burning sensation, inflammation, etc. If you notice the changes with the tongue, visit a doctor immediately for the treatment.


Tongue illness affects the overall health and thus, do not forget to take care of your tongue. Also, tongue bacteria can be good or bad for oral health.

They may modify or evade the host, depending upon their nature. So, do not worry about the count of bacteria in your oral cavity.

Instead, you should practice proper oral hygiene methods, clean your tongue regularly with a tongue scraper, use therapeutic mouthwash, etc. (5)


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