Stinky Breath? Maybe it’s A coated tongue

Have you ever taken a peek at the back of your tongue and noticed a white, yellow, or brownish plaque coating your tongue? Have you also been told, or noticed, that your breath is a little unpleasant? This could be a case of coated tongue.

To be fair, a malodor coming from your mouth (halitosis) can stem from a whole host of other issues: dry mouth, smoking, dental cavities, gum disease, open tooth extraction sites, and dental plaque can all contribute to the stink1. It can also come from places other than your mouth e.g. lungs, nose, the digestive system2, and of course that garlic bread you ate. But, if these other options that can cause bad breath are ruled out, a coated tongue may be to blame3.

The halitosis is thought to stem from volatile sulphur compounds which are produced as a by-product from the bacteria that live in stagnant areas of our mouths4. Other than cavities and gum disease, the back of the tongue can become a stagnant area if not cleaned properly–hence leading to the coated tongue. This stagnant area is a build up of bad bacteria, dead cells, and maybe even food debris.

One way to combat this build up on the tongue is by brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth. Tongue scrapers can also be purchased and used to help reduce the build up. Studies have shown that cleaning a coated tongue, when there is halitosis, can help to relieve the stink5. If you or your friends, family, significant other, pets, e.t.c notice that your breath has an interesting funk, head over to your dentist to get it checked out. If a funny smell is not an issue, but the appearance of the coated build up is, tongue hygiene should still solve this problem.

Summary: Bad bacteria, debris, dead cells, can buildup on your tongue. All of this, when not cleaned off properly, can lead to bad breath. Check with your dentist to see if a coated tongue is to blame.

You can of course use a toothbrush to clean your tongue but if something a little extra, try out a tongue scraper! Check out the link below

GUM – 10070942302316 Dual Action Tongue Cleaner Brush and Scraper (Colors May Vary) (Pack of 6)

  1. American Dental Assocation. (2012, September). Bad Breath: Causes and Tips for Controlling It. Retrieved from For the Dental Patient: https://jada.ada.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0002-8177%2814%2961845-6
  2. 2. Kinberg S, Stein M, Zion N, Shaoul R. The gastrointestinal aspects of halitosis. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology 2010;24(9):552-556.
  3. Lee, P. P., Mak, W. Y., & Newsome, P. (2004). The aetiology and treatment of oral halitosis: an update. Hong Kong medical journal = Xianggang yi xue za zhi10(6), 414–418.
  4. Lee, P. P., Mak, W. Y., & Newsome, P. (2004). The aetiology and treatment of oral halitosis: an update. Hong Kong medical journal = Xianggang yi xue za zhi10(6), 414–418.
  5. De Boever, E. H., & Loesche, W. J. (1995). Assessing the contribution of anaerobic microflora of the tongue to oral malodor. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939)126(10), 1384–1393. https://doi.org/10.14219/jada.archive.1995.0049

The Author of this post does not assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, malpractice, negligence, or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, instructions or ideas contained. The foregoing parties will not be liable for any direct, special, indirect, incidental, consequential, or punitive damages as a result of the reader’s use of this information.

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