Tongue coating and tongue brushing: a literature review

Int J Dent Hyg. 2003 Aug;1(3):151-8. doi: 10.1034/j.1601-5037.2003.00034.x.


The present paper reviews the role of the tongue as a habitat for oral microorganisms and the potential need for tongue cleaning as part of daily oral hygiene. In addition tongue coating is described. Many microorganisms have been found colonizing the dorsum of the tongue. Some studies find a positive effect to tongue brushing on bacterial counts on the tongue. On the other hand there are also studies that do not find any differences in bacterial counts before or after tongue brushing. Bacteria colonizing the tongue and periodontal pockets play an important role in the production of volatile sulphur compounds in periodontal health and disease. These compounds can be the cause of oral malodour. The amount of tongue coating in patients complaining of halitosis was significantly greater than in patients without halitosis. Tongue brushing on a regular basis, particular aiming at removing the coating on the dorsum of the tongue, has been found to be fruitful in reducing oral malodour. Studies investigating the role of tongue brushing and plaque accumulation or gingival inflammation show conflicting results. It is clear that the tongue forms the largest niche for microorganims in the oral cavity. However, on the basis of literature, there appears to be no data to justify the necessity to clean the tongue on a regular basis. One exception would be oral malodour.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Biofilms*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Halitosis / microbiology
  • Halitosis / therapy
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene / instrumentation
  • Oral Hygiene / methods*
  • Periodontal Pocket / microbiology
  • Tongue / microbiology*