You brush and floss regularly and visit your dentist twice a year for your teeth cleaning exams. But could you be missing a big part of your oral care routine? Read on to learn why it’s important to brush your tongue and how to clean your tongue.
How and Why You Should Be Cleaning Your Tongue
Should you brush your tongue? The short answer is a resounding yes, but you might be mystified about why and how you should complete this important part of your oral care and hygiene.
Just like everything else in your mouth, your tongue is a magnet for bacteria. Like your teeth, your tongue has all sorts of grooves and surfaces for bacteria to adhere to, hide in and grow. Bacteria growth left unchecked on the tongue won’t lead to cavities like it will on the teeth, but things like bad breath and biofilm buildup can cause minor problems to major complications.
Leaving your tongue unbrushed can dull your taste buds, cause halitosis (chronic bad breath), black hairy tongue (it’s just what it sounds like and it’s real!), oral yeast infections, and gum disease. Many of these issues are completely preventable when you clean your tongue as part of your regular oral care routine.
Another reason you should clean your tongue every time you brush is that it will also give you a better baseline to determine if changes in your oral health are due to something beyond your oral hygiene.
For example, oral yeast infections can be caused by antibiotics or auto-immune issues. If you and your dentist can’t readily rule out your oral hygiene as the culprit, it might be more difficult to diagnose and treat the problem.
How to Clean Your Tongue
Clean your tongue with your toothbrush
The best way to clean your tongue is by brushing it with your toothbrush. Brushing your tongue might take a little practice or getting used to if it’s not part of your regular oral care routine. Save this step toward the end of your two minutes of brushing. Take your toothbrush and gently scrub it over the top surface of your tongue for a few seconds. There should already be plenty of foam and toothpaste there, so it won’t matter much that there’s not a lot left on your toothbrush. Try sticking your tongue out, but keep it relaxed so it’s as wide and flat as possible.
Use a tongue scraper to clean your tongue
If you have a sensitive gag reflex, just do your best! It might work better for you to purchase a tongue scraper, which you can glide over the surface of your tongue. Or, some toothbrushes have a silicone scrubber on the opposite side of the bristles. Some patients prefer to use this side to clean their tongue rather than the bristles.
You can also clean the sides and the underneath part of your tongue. Again, this doesn’t have to be a long process, just enough to glide over the surface area so bacteria can’t stick.
Clean your tongue with mouthwash
If you absolutely can’t handle the sensation of brushing or scraping your tongue, you can use a foaming mouthwash, though this method comes in a distant second for overall effectiveness. Remember, between all those tastebuds and grooves in your tongue, it’s very difficult clean to the level you need with just rinsing.
Finally, after brushing your tongue, you can gargle with mouthwash to make sure you get the farthest reaches at the back of your tongue. This will also help with clearing bacteria around your soft palate and tonsils, and will do even more to help you with fresh breath.
Try sticking with your tongue brushing routine and method until you get used to it. It’s likely you’ll notice some marked differences almost immediately in your breath or even in the way you taste your food. You may even notice your tongue is pinker or “feels” clean, especially if you’re a regular coffee drinker or smoker or it’s been a while since you’ve brushed your tongue.
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.
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