Importance of Tongue Cleaning

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
May 30, 2018

Mom and child sticking their tongues out at each other

You already know that brushing your teeth is key when it comes to keeping your pearly whites clean and sparkling. But what about tongue cleaning? Is it something that you really need to worry about? As it turns out, yes, you should be taking just a few moments every day to clean your tongue, and the info below will explain why.

What’s the Point of Cleaning Your Tongue?

Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash should be enough to get rid of all of the nasty bacteria in your mouth, right? Wrong! Your tongue is host to a lot of food particles and bacteria that you can only effectively get rid of by cleaning it. That’s because there are spots all over your tongue that could harbor bacteria until it’s removed with the appropriate tool.

If your tongue isn’t cleaned, all of the bacteria on it could grow, and that could lead to bad breath. Ew! On top of that, the bacteria might even end up contributing to tooth decay or gum problems, and your tongue might even appear discolored. Yikes!

Why Do You Need to Brush or Scrape Your Tongue?

The bacteria that builds up on your tongue ends up forming what’s known as a biofilm. In basic terms, this is a bunch of unwanted microorganisms, and they like to come together (are you suddenly singing that Beatles song like we are?) and stay that way on your tongue.

When you just swish some water in your mouth, or when you use a mouthwash, you aren’t really doing much to get rid of this biofilm. Instead, what you’re merely doing is only killing off the biofilm’s outer cells. All of the cells underneath that outer layer end up staying alive (now we have that Bee Gees song in our heads!).

What Are the Best Ways to Clean Your Tongue?

Okay, all of this talk about bacteria on your tongue is gross, we know, but bear with us.

Here’s how to clean your tongue and get rid of the biofilm of bacteria that could lead to oral problems:

  1. Every time that you brush your teeth, take some time to brush your tongue, rather than only doing this once in a while. After all, bacteria will once again accumulate on the tongue rather quickly after you brush, so a daily routine could help keep the nasties at bay as much as possible.
  2. To get the job done right, you can use your toothbrush once you’re done brushing your teeth. Another option would be to purchase a tongue scraper that you can glide easily on the tongue to remove the biofilm. Or you can even buy a tongue brush, such as one that you can attach to your electric toothbrush. Neat!
  3. It is best to brush the tongue in multiple directions, so you should brush side to side and then front to back to hit every area where bacteria could be hiding, and you could also use circular motions.   
  4. After you brush or scrape your tongue, rinsing your mouth with some water will finish the job and help your entire mouth feel even more refreshed.

Extra Tips:

Don’t be too aggressive, as your tongue is sensitive and you don’t want to do more harm than good. If your tongue hurts while you’re cleaning it, you’re probably being too rough. Gentle is the keyword here. You don’t need to use a lot of pressure, and you don’t need to scrape or brush your tongue quickly either.

Remember: the delicate skin of your tongue could become irritated and inflamed surprisingly easily. If you do damage, it might be best to skip cleaning your tongue for a couple of days until the skin has healed so the problem doesn’t get worse.

If you have a sore or a wound on your tongue, cleaning it might only end up irritating it more, so consider skipping the brushing or scraping until everything is nicely healed. But if the problem doesn’t resolve on its own, be sure to see your dentist for a proper diagnosis.

Your Dentist Is Always There to Help!

Whether you have questions about chronic bad breath, a tongue that feels sore, or the best tools for thoroughly cleaning your tongue, the only way to get personalized advice is by seeing your dentist.

Once all of your questions are answered, and once you have the right tongue cleaning technique down, you might notice that your breath smells fresher and your teeth and gums are healthier, too, because you’ll be getting rid of bacteria that could wreak havoc on your oral health. So, if you haven’t done it yet, consider adding tongue cleaning to your daily regimen.


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