We all know brushing our teeth and flossing are important. We’ve been taught to do so since our first dentist appointment. But has anyone ever told you that you should brush…

oral health tongue
Photo by Phillips Communications / CC-BY-NC-ND

Why Should You Brush Your Tongue?

We all know brushing our teeth and flossing are important. We’ve been taught to do so since our first dentist appointment. But has anyone ever told you that you should brush your tongue? For complete dental health, it is important to do all three. Here’s why you should add cleaning your tongue to your dental health routine.

Bacteria Lives on Your Tongue

Your tongue actually houses most of the bacteria in your mouth. Although it may seem smooth, taste buds and other structures create crevices and elevations all over the surface of your tongue. As you eat and drink, bacteria hides in these spaces and actually forms what is called a biofilm (a group of microorganisms that stick together). And just plain old rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash isn’t enough to remove the biofilm. And if all of the bacteria is not removed, it causes a host of problems.

Bad Breath

tools for tongue

Photo by Phillips Communications / BY-NC-ND

One of the biggest benefits of brushing your tongue is eliminating bad breath. The bacteria living in the crevices of your mouth and on your taste buds can cause this somewhat embarrassing trait if not removed. If you are experiencing a sour mouth, begin brushing or scraping your tongue. Results from studies conducted to find the cause of bad breath (halitosis) revealed that 68% of the cases studied saw their poor breath cured after a thorough scrubbing. For more information on these studies click here.

Cavities

People who don’t have bad breath may be wondering if they should brush their tongue. The answer is yes! There are a lot more problems that can arise from neglecting to clean every part of your mouth.

Even though you cannot get a cavity on your tongue, the bacteria can move from the tongue to teeth within hours.

How Do You Brush Your Tongue?

Now that we know why we should brush our tongues, how exactly do we do this? Well, there are a few ways to clean the bacteria off your tongue.

  • Toothbrush – Stick your tongue out as far as you can and brush as far back as you can stand. You can put toothpaste on the brush or dip it in mouthwash if you desire, but it isn’t necessary.
  • Scraper – A scraper is generally plastic, with a smooth edge. When using one you can actually see the bacteria come off. The only disadvantage would be that it doesn’t get down into the grooves in your tongue like the bristles of a toothbrush.
  • Cleaner – This tool is similar in shape to a scraper, but it has rubber bristles in order to get into the grooves on the surface.
  • Floss – This might be the least effective option, but it would work if you’re in a pinch. Wrap the floss around each index finger and drag it across your tongue.

How do you know if you’ve cleaned your tongue well enough? Well, just take a look. Most of the time you can tell if you’ve made any progress as you can see the biofilm that is coating your tongue.

Along with the benefits we’ve listed here, there are other benefits to brushing your tongue, including improving your ability to taste. To read about these, check out “5 Reasons to Scrape Your Tongue Everyday.” If you try these techniques and continue to have bad breath, check out our blog post Causes and Treatment for Bad Breath to investigate other possible causes.

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