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Your tongue is an absolute bacterial zoo!

OK… so most of us know that digestion starts in the mouth. All that chewing and saliva happens for a good reason, right?

But that mouth of yours, specifically your tongue, is is a squatters camp of vast numbers of bacteria – some good, some benign and some – well, don’t ask.

We shouldn’t be surprised since more than half of ‘us’ actually isn’t. In fact 57% of all the cells in our body are not ours. They are part of our microbiome!

“The tongue is particularly important because it harbors a large reservoir of microbes and is a traditional reference point in medicine,” said Jessica Mark Welch, co-author of a study published in the journal Cell Reports.

Welch, a microbial ecologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts, reminded us of one of the first thing your doctor says: ‘Stick out your tongue’!

Your mouth biome typically contains more than 700 species of bacteria. These vary from one person to the next depending on diet and lifestyle but three genera of bacteria were identified in 80 percent of the 21 healthy tongues the researchers collected samples from…

  • Streptococcigreen around the edges of the tongue where they can gobble up oxygen, shown here in green;
  • Actinomyces, which thrive in an anaerobic environment away from the edges, shown in red; and
  • Rothia, which keeps away from either of those border regions, shown in cyan,

Now that you’ve read this, will kissing still be the same?

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