The Importance of a Clean Tongue

From a young age, most of us were taught the importance of caring for our teeth. Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once per day, and visit the dentist every six months. While this advice is important for oral hygiene, it’s missing one important step – cleaning your tongue.

Why Is It Important to Clean Your Tongue?

Your tongue is a collection of eight muscles that enable us to swallow, chew, and speak. The bumpy papillae that cover the surface of the tongue help us taste and feel textures.

While your tongue is necessary for many things, it also harbors bacteria. Many of these bacteria are good, as they help to create a healthy environment in your mouth. There are also, however, “bad” bacteria present. These bacteria, also known as biofilm, lead to gingivitis, gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath.

Cleaning your tongue helps keep a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. It also washes away dead cells and any food debris left behind from brushing and flossing.

What Is the Best Way to Clean Your Tongue?

It is a common misconception that rinsing with mouthwash will kill any bacteria left over after brushing. The truth is, rinsing with mouthwash only kills the outer layer of biofilm. Getting rid of the thriving bacteria underneath requires extra care. So, how exactly do you get all the biofilm off your tongue?

There are two different tools you can use to cleanse your tongue: your toothbrush and a tongue scraper. The best time to brush your tongue is between brushing your teeth and rinsing. Using the toothpaste left in your mouth, brush your tongue from back to front, and then rinse.

While brushing helps clean the biofilm from your tongue, scraping is more effective. Think about it in these terms – if you scrub a dirty carpet, some dirt will wash away. Much of it, however, will embed deeper into the carpet. The same goes for tongue brushing.

Scraping is a more effective way to remove the bacteria from your tongue. To scrape your tongue, start as far back in your mouth as possible. Scrape from back to front, covering the entire surface and every nook and cranny.

You can buy a tongue scraper online or at a drugstore. Most scrapers are less than $10 and are made from plastic, stainless steel, or copper.

What if It Makes You Gag?

For many folks, placing a brush or scraper at the back of the tongue triggers the gag reflex. If this happens to you, start with the cleaning tool in the middle of the tongue. Each time, start with the tool a little further back until you’re able to clean your entire tongue.  Most “gag reflexes” are not true reflexes- there is not a specific spot that elicits a specific gag response.  Most are psychological in nature; if it was a true reflex we would all be gagging every time we moved food and drink around our mouths. 

Benefits of Scraping Your Tongue

Over time, dead cells, bacteria, and debris can build up on your tongue. This buildup can negatively impact your oral health. Scraping your tongue twice a day helps remove this buildup.

Other benefits of tongue scraping include:

  • Appearance – Daily scraping washes away the white film on your tongue and helps prevent it from returning.
  • Sense of taste – As bacteria builds up in your mouth, it can mute your sense of taste. Cleaning your tongue washes away that bacteria, ensuring you taste all the flavors of your food.
  • Overall health – Since tongue scraping can help your oral health, it can help your overall health because heart disease and other problems are linked to poor oral health.
  • Removes bacteria – Regular tongue scraping reduces the appearance of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli. These bacteria have been linked to dental decay and bad breath.
  • Reduces bad breath – Studies show that tongue scraping helps remove odor-causing bacteria.

Contact Melbourne Orthodontics

Proper dental care doesn’t stop at brushing your teeth. Caring for your tongue is an important step that many people neglect. To ensure your oral health, make an appointment with Melbourne Orthodontics for some of the best orthodontic care in Melbourne, FL.