Your Dentist Asks Patients: Are You Cleaning Your Tongue Enough?

It can be frustrating to hear that you have bad breath, even after you’ve brushed your teeth and flossed. However, it’s unlikely that your brushing technique is off. In fact, it’s more likely that you just aren’t brushing your tongue!

Your dentist says the tongue is an essential part of the mouth. Not only does it allow us to talk, but it also helps us digest food, chew, and swallow efficiently. Considering all the food your tongue sees throughout the day, here’s why cleaning it is important.


Why Is Cleaning My Tongue Necessary?

Bacteria doesn’t only build up on your teeth, gums, and cheeks. In fact, your tongue is quite the sponge because of how warm and moist it is. Plaque and tartar can still harden in between the papillae, which are tiny bumps that cover your entire tongue. Bacteria, dead skin, plaque, and food debris all gather on the tongue, followed by a thin layer of mucous.

If you have bad breath, there’s a good chance that it’s because your tongue is covered in this film and bacteria. If left uncleaned, it can transfer bacteria and plaque to other parts of the mouth, increasing the chances of tooth decay and gum disease. It can also cause chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis. It can also cause a condition known as white tongue.


What’s the Best Way to Clean My Tongue?

During the last 20 seconds of your two-minute brushing time, start gently brushing saliva, mucous, and residual toothpaste from the back of your tongue to the front. Be sure to do this after you finish cleaning your teeth and gums but before you rinse your mouth. Use the extra toothpaste residue to clean your cheeks and roof of your mouth as well.

If you prefer to use a dedicated tool for cleaning your tongue, many drug stores and groceries carry tongue scrapers that glide along the surface of your tongue. Regardless of the device you use, make sure you’re always starting brushing from the back of the tongue to the tip.


What If I’m Struggling to Clean My Tongue?

If you find yourself in pain while cleaning your tongue, it’s likely because your brushing it too hard. Avoid scrubbing or scraping your tongue vigorously as only light pressure is needed to clean it effectively. Brushing it gently will prevent your tongue from becoming inflamed or irritated. If you accidently rub off too much skin, give your tongue’s skin a day or so to regrow it before cleaning it again.

If you have a sensitive gag reflex, start by inching your brush closer and closer to the back of your mouth to help you get used to the sensation. Another trick is to relax your tongue and exhale the moment you reach a sensitive area. This should help override your natural gag reflex.

Looking for more tips on cleaning the important areas of your mouth? Your dentist can help! Schedule an appointment with her today to learn more!


About the Author

Dr. Melody Zamora earned her dental degree from Oregon Health & Science University. She is dedicated to helping patients improve their oral care routine however necessary. To learn more about her practice, contact her through her website.

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