Tongue Cleaning Increases the Perceived Intensity of Salty Taste

J Nutr Health Aging. 2018;22(7):802-804. doi: 10.1007/s12603-018-1030-8.


Objective: Tongue coating, which refers to a greyish white deposit on the tongue surface, often covers the taste papillae on the dorsal tongue surface, decreasing taste sensitivity. This study investigated whether mechanical removal of the tongue coating affected the intensity of salt taste perception.

Participants: This cross-sectional single blind study included 90 subjects (29 males, 61 females) with a mean age of 45 years (range 25-70 years).

Intervention: The presence and the amount of coating on the six sextants of the tongue were scored using the Winkel Tongue Coating Index (WTCI); the 90 included subjects had total WTCI scores ≥ 3. The intensity of the salt taste was tested using a drop of prepared tomato soup applied to the middle of the dorsal surface of the tongue before and then after tongue cleaning.

Measurement: The salt taste intensity was measured using a general Labeled Magnitude Scale (gLMS).

Results: The mean salt taste intensity was significantly different (p value = 0.0002) after the intervention versus before it, with the taste intensity increasing after tongue cleaning.

Conclusions: The results indicated that the salt taste intensity increased after removal of the tongue coating. This study indicates that tongue cleaning, a simple technique used for oral hygiene, may be an effective way to reduce excess salt intake. Tongue cleaning could help individuals adhere to the WHO recommendations on dietary salt intake.

Keywords: taste intensity; Salt; tongue cleaning; tongue coating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Sodium Chloride / metabolism*
  • Taste
  • Taste Perception / physiology*
  • Tongue / physiology*


  • Sodium Chloride