Why You Should Be Brushing Your Tongue

Conventional wisdom dictates that flossing and brushing at least twice a day are indicators of good oral hygiene, but this simply isn't the case. Having a clean tongue is just as beneficial to overall health because the tongue can harbor all sorts of bacteria, leading to bad breath, plaque buildup, and even gum disease.

Why Should You Clean Your Tongue?

Why You Should Be Brushing Your tongue

Image via Flickr by Phillips Communications

We all know that our teeth and gums are targets for bacteria, but our tongues are no exception. Due to the tongue's unique structure, bacteria can accumulate and thrive between the taste buds until they're removed with the proper cleaning technique. Rinsing alone won't help, as these microorganisms are too small and stick together between the tongue's crevices in the biofilm. When harmful bacteria aren't removed, the situation can lead to tooth damage and foul odors, which are problems nobody wants to deal with.

How Often Should You Brush Your Tongue?

As part of your dental care routine, you should clean your tongue every time you brush your teeth. That means at least once in the morning and once in the evening before bed. You should also clean your tongue at midday, if you have a bad taste in your mouth, or feel that your mouth is overly dry. Once you get into the habit of cleaning your tongue twice a day, you'll notice fresher breath and, hopefully, improved dental health at your next checkup.

How Should You Clean Your Tongue?

Brushing your tongue during your regular tooth-brushing routine is simple. Using the toothbrush bristles on your tongue, carefully brush back and forth and side to side, covering the tongue's entire surface before rinsing with water. Most people find that it's easier to start this method at the back of the tongue and work forward toward the opening of the mouth. If you start to gag, you've gone too far back.

Some toothbrushes even feature a built-in tongue cleaner on the back of the head, which is specially designed to tackle that tongue bacteria. While these are helpful reminders to clean the tongue, a basic toothbrush works just as well.

Should You Use a Tongue Scraper?

According to the American Dental Association, there is no strong evidence that a tongue scraper does a better job of cleaning the tongue than a regular toothbrush. Even so, tongue scrapers come in all different shapes and sizes and feature a soft, flexible plastic designed to peel the biofilm away from the tongue, exposing those underlying bacteria. As such, many people find that tongue scrapers work better for them than brushing. It all comes down to personal preference.

If you're able to perfect your tongue-brushing technique, however, a toothbrush can easily get into all the grooves of the tongue's surfaces, where a tongue scraper merely skims the top.

What Other Benefits are There to Cleaning Your Tongue?

Aside from improving your breath and dental health, cleaning your tongue can actually improve your ability to taste. Removing all of that bacterial buildup from your tongue's biofilm better exposes your taste buds, allowing you to enjoy flavors more. Getting rid of bacteria in the mouth also keeps it from absorbing into the body either through the blood stream or through ingestion, which can improve your overall health.

Should You Follow with a Mouthwash Rinse?

One of the drawbacks of mouthwash is that it masks bad breath for a short time, which ultimately masks poor dental health. Still, using mouthwash after cleaning the tongue kills those freshly exposed bacteria, helping to fight gum disease and cut down on cavities. If you find mouthwash too irritating, however, a simple rinse with water after brushing or scraping the tongue should suffice.

What if You Still Have Bad Breath After Nailing Your Tongue-Cleaning Routine?

Bad breath can be caused by a slew of factors that go beyond poor oral hygiene. Dry mouth, tobacco use, gum disease, and even diet can all contribute to foul breath. If you've developed a stellar dental routine that includes regular tongue cleaning but you still have a problem with bad breath, make an appointment with your dentist. You could be dealing with tooth decay or a reaction to medication, or you might even have an underlying disease like diabetes causing the problem.

Brushing your tongue is an easy habit to add to your existing daily dental routine, so why not start today? Getting into the habit of brushing your tongue now ensures your entire mouth gets the attention it needs to stay fresh and healthy.

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