It wasn't long ago that singer Cher advised pop sensation Miley Cyrus not to stick her tongue out if it's coated, which is certainly not visually appealing. Experts say the tongue's condition speaks volume about one's hygiene consciousness and also reveals one's health status.
Be it your friends who love to stick out the tongue or actors who prefer close shots, if the tongue is covered with a thick white layer it's definitely a big turn off.
Aikta Singh, consultant dentist at Gurgaon's Columbia Asia Hospital, says if brushing the teeth is important, cleaning the tongue is equally essential.
"First, wash a tongue-cleaner and then place it on the tongue. Don't apply too much pressure and clean in a downward motion at least two to three times. If the pressure is too much you may hurt your tongue," said Aikta Singh.
Clean the tongue on a regular basis to prevent bacteria from growing, she added.
Sonali Bassi, oral care expert at parentune.com, said eating food that have strong colours can also be the culprit for unwanted colour on your tongue.
"Turmeric, black grapes and berries are some of the food items that can leave a colour on your tongue," Bassi said.
But these edible items are not harmful and can be easily removed with the help of scrapers available in the market.
"Metal and plastic tongue scrapers can be used to remove the coating on the tongue. Most toothbrush companies have also come up with brushes with soft bristles and a rubbery attachment on the reverse that can be used to clean the tongue," said Bassi.
Ayan Mozumdar, dentist, NationWide - The Family Doctor, said that using the reverse of the brush is safe, but avoid the front part for the same purpose.
"Studies have proved that using a toothbrush designed to clean the tooth surface, which is smooth and hard, compared to the tongue, is not that effective, but you can use toothbrushes that have a tongue cleaner on the other side," Mozumdar told IANS.
He however felt a plastic scraper is better because if the metal one rusts, it can lead to infection.
Aikta Singh said if a metal cleaner was used, it should be changed every five months.
The other way to maintain the tongue's hygiene is to use a mouthwash.
"Most of the bad odour is because of deposits on the tongue. At least 70 percent of such cases come to us. Use a mouthwash once a day to give some freshness.
"Most of the commercially available mouthwashes have an alcoholic content. It might dry your mouth a lot; so don't overuse it. And go for a gentler one and not concentrated as the latter might stain the teeth and also burn the tongue tissues," Mozumdar said.
Another simple way to fight bacteria is to rinse the mouth with saline water.
"Take a half glass of lukewarm water and pour a half teaspoon of salt in it. Rinse your mouth five to six times a day with it," said Bassi.
If food can coat your tongue, various illnesses can also affect it.
According to Mozumdar, there is a connection between oral and general health.
"When you have anaemia, small projections of the tongue are lost over a period of time and it becomes smooth and red, so you might have burning sensation when you eat spicy food. Prolonged illness will also have an effect on the oral system," he said.
Even fever can affect the tongue.
"When you have high fever, a white layer gets formed on the top of the tongue. It can be removed by regular cleanup, but if that can't be done, it's a fungal infection. There are ointments for such cases," Bassi told IANS.
Aikta Singh says that sometimes, dehydration can be related to a coloured tongue.
So, before you step out or face the camera, make sure that along with your teeth, your tongue is sparklingly clean.
Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org