Are Biofilms causing your bad breath?: Biofilms of the Tongue
By: Kaylie Huff
May 17th, 2011
Recently there has been a heightened interest in the sticky groups of bacteria known as biofilms. The tongue of our oral cavity has been proven to harbor many of these bacterial biofilms. The increased amount of biofilms on the tongue and the lack of knowledge on how to eliminate them completely and has lead to many known oral disease, bodily complications, and most commonly known halitosis, or bad breath.external image lifecycle.png

The oral cavity is a habitat that is consumed by a mass amount of biofilms. These biofilms take residence to the surfaces of the tongue, teeth and gums. Build up of these biofilms due to improper oral hygiene has led to numerous studies indicating their relationship to oral diseases as well as bad breath. The biofilms of the teeth, also commonly known as plaque, are commonly known by people to have dangerous effects to our oral health. However people rarely know the effects of biofilm build up on the tongue and the implications that can proceed. Many new pieces of research are leading to inform individuals that tongue hygiene is also as important and vital to maintain a healthy oral hygiene as the removal of biofilms from the teeth.

Biofilms on the tongue:

The oral cavity has many structures but because of its location and function the tongue has proven to be one of the most important anatomical features. Although our knowledge on the effect our tongue has on our oral diseases and health is minimal, scientists have been taking interest recently to discover how the huge microbial world that lives on our tongues affects our health (Roldan, S., Herrera, D., & Sanz, M, 2003). Since this boom of interest in the microbiology of the tongue, there has been knowledge that f
ound a link between the tongue biofilms and oral halitosis, or unpleasant odors when exhaling or breathing (Roldan, S. , Herrera, D. , & Sanz, M, 2003
). In addition to these biofilms being a cause for halitosis, other studies have suggested that these bacterial biofilms may serve as a reservoir for microorganisms that contribute to the formation of plaque, which could also lead to the formation of dental diseases (Cherel et al., 2008). All of this recent information and the new emerging studies on the biofilms of the tongue serve an important role in our oral health and maintaining oral hygiene. Poor oral health causes direct harm to individuals and many other bodily problems can be traced back to the biofilms and microbes of the mouth (Pennisi, 2005).

Effects of Biofilms:

An increase of the sticky accumulation of bacteria known as biofilms, are being linked to various oral diseases and external image whitegeographictongue.jpgother bodily complications (Potera, 1999). Some of these disease range from bad breath to tooth decay, and from prostatitis and kidney infections (Ciancio, 2010). Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 70% of human bacterial infections involve biofilms (Tortora, 2010). Many of these infections have their origin from the tongue and oral cavity. The tongue serves as a host for a vast microbial environment and many problems within the body are traced back to oral health. This poor oral health could be costly and statistics show that half of adults in the United States have gum disease or tooth decay which is cased from an increase in biofilms of the tongue and mouth. In addition Americans spend over 60 billion dollars a year to treat tooth decay and biofilm related problems (Pennisi, 2005). The structure of the tongue harbors a unique and complex biofilm. It has been found that this biofilm hosts periodontal pathogens (Roldan, S., Herrera, D., & Sanz, M, 2003). It has been known that these bacterial biofilms can cause further harm to our bodies by escaping the oral cavity into other areas of our body. There are well proven links to one oral pathogen and heart problems, as well as many other examples (Pennisi, 2005).

Research Studies:
In 2003, a microbiologist Paster chose his aim of study to be on the biofilms of the tongue. With his research he pinpointed 92 groups of microorganisms living on the tongue. A study he performed with his colleagues involved the data from six people with bad breath and five without it. He noted that there were key differences in the amount of microbes in a group of people who had bad breath or not. Found from this research was that three bacterial species thrived in the healthy mouths but not in the mouth of the people with bad breath. He was also able to identify around twelve microorganisms that took habitat on the bad smelling tongues, but didn’t live on the sweet smelling tongues. This data was able to confirm that a tongues biofilm makeup was important to the presence of halitosis (Pennisi, 2005).
An additional study done by second year dental students at the School of Dentistry, Loma Linda University sought to study the rate of reformation of tongue biofilm coatings after mechanical removal. Following baseline examinations, tongue coating scores, and frequent examinations the results of this study showed that on average tongue coating scores returned to baseline levels by day two. These results suggest that in order to keep tongue biofilm coatings at a low level, that tongue cleaning should be performed on a daily basis (Cherel et al., 2008).
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The control of biofilm accumulation in the oral cavity has been an essential tool in the prevention of oral diseases. Despite the need to control these biofilms, an increased rate in the prevalence of gingivitis in individuals gives assumption that there is inefficiency in the methods people are using to mechanically control biofilms (Ciancio, 2010). Thus far there is still minimal research on how to accurately eliminate biofilms on the tongue as well as the entire mouth. Some suggestions and research shows that tongue brushing on a regular basis has been beneficial to the individuals with halitosis because of its help with removing the tongues coating of biofilms on the dorsum of the tongue (Cherel et al., 2008). Other studies have investigated the effectiveness of antiseptic mouthwashes and found that they can provide a significant reduction in gingivitis that cannot be obtained from only brushing. Mouth washes contain oil that has proven to have antiplaque and antigingivitis effects on the tongue (Ciancio, 2010). There is hexternal image toothbrush_WEB.jpgope that in the future scientists may be able to find weaknesses in the pathogenic oral microbes to lead us to improved mouthwashes that only suppress the bad biofilms and keep the good ones. For the future, microbiologist Dennis Mengan is convinced that we can, “make cavities, gum disease, and bad breath a thing of the past and bring a healthy smile to the mouths of many people (Pennisi, 2005).”

Literature Cited
1. Ciancio, S. (2010). Biofilm dynamics at the gingival frontier. International Dental Journal, 60(3), 200-203.
2. Cherel, F., Mobilia, A., Lundgren, T., Stephens, J., Kiger, R., Riggs, M., & Egelberg, J. (2008). Rate of reformation of tongue coatings in young adults. International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 6(4), 371-375.
3. Pennisi, E. (2005). A mouthful of microbes. Science, 307(5717), 1899-1901.
4. Potera, C. (1999). Forging a link between biofilms and disease. Science, 283(5409), 1837-1838.
5. Roldan, S. , Herrera, D. , & Sanz, M. (2003). Biofilms and the tongue: Therapeutical approaches for the control of halitosis. Clinical Oral Investigations, 7(4), 189-197.
6. Tortora, Funke, Case 2010. Microbiology: An Introduction. Pearson Education Inc, CA