Dirty tongue: How to avoid it?

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Maintaining proper oral hygiene is not only about taking care of your teeth and gums, but also about paying attention to your tongue. Dirty tongue, known as saburra lingualis, can arise for various reasons, and understanding its causes and consequences is essential to prevent this common problem. In this article, from our dental clinic in Malaga and Torremolinos, Gross Dentistas, we will explore in detail the causes behind this phenomenon, its possible consequences and provide practical guidelines to avoid this inconvenience.

Causes of dirty tongue

Understanding these causes is essential to effectively address this problem and take preventative measures to help maintain optimal oral health.

  • Inflamed taste buds: Inflammation of the taste buds on the tongue can be caused by irritants such as spicy, acidic or hot foods. This process can cause the taste buds to become more noticeable and retain food particles and bacteria.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Failure to brush the tongue or using an inadequate toothbrush facilitates the accumulation of bacteria and food particles on the tongue.
  • Consumption of foods and drinks with intense colours: Foods and drinks with vibrant colours, such as coffee, red wine or certain sauces, can stain the tongue, giving it a dirty appearance.
  • Gum disease: Gum problems, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, can contribute to a dirty tongue due to inflammation and the release of toxins in the mouth.
  • Use of certain medications: Some medications can have side effects that affect saliva production or oral hygiene, increasing the risk of developing it.
  • Bacterial build-up: The tongue, with its rough surface, can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Food particles and dead cells are deposited on the lingual papillae, providing an ideal place for bacterial growth.
  • Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco not only affects the teeth and gums, but also leaves residue on the tongue, contributing to the formation of dirt.
  • Lack of hydration: Saliva, a natural ally in oral hygiene, can diminish in cases of dehydration. Too little saliva makes it easier for debris to stick to the tongue.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Alcoholic beverages can contribute to dehydration, and certain components of alcohol can promote the accumulation of dirt.

Consequences of a dirty tongue

  • Bad breath: Tongue fouling is one of the main causes of bad breath, as bacteria on the tongue can release foul-smelling compounds.
  • Dental problems: Bacterial build-up on the tongue can increase the risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease, affecting overall oral health.
  • Taste difficulties: A dirty tongue can interfere with taste perception, negatively impacting the eating experience.

5 keys to avoid a dirty tongue

  1. Tongue brushing: Incorporate tongue cleaning as an integral part of your daily toothbrushing routine. Use a tongue cleaner or soft toothbrush to remove debris.
  2. Adequate hydration: Drink enough water throughout the day to maintain adequate saliva production, which is crucial for oral hygiene.
  3. Quit smoking: Quitting smoking not only benefits your lungs, but also improves oral health by reducing the build-up of dirt.
  4. Limit alcohol consumption: Control the consumption of alcoholic beverages and, when possible, rinse your mouth with water after drinking.
  5. Regular dental visits: Schedule regular check-ups with your dentist. These professionals not only offer professional cleanings, but also provide guidance on tongue and mouth care in general.


Adopting healthy oral hygiene habits is essential to prevent unclean tongue and its possible consequences. Not only will you improve the aesthetics of your smile, but you will also promote optimal oral health for a full and carefree dental life. If you need more information or to book an appointment, do not hesitate to contact us.

Ortodoncista Dra. Concha Gross de Bethencourt

Ortodoncista especializada en el sistema de ortodoncia invisible, extensa trayectoria profesional y un gran número de pacientes satisfechos con los resultados obtenidos tras la finalización de su tratamiento.

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