Why You Should be Brushing Your Tongue

For many of us, brushing our teeth is second nature and a habit that was instilled in us from a young age. Twice daily brushing is recommended by experts as the best way to help rid our teeth of the bacteria that accumulate from the food and drink we consume and eventually start to cause decay and damage. 

However, it is not just our teeth and gums that bacteria like to call home. In fact, the majority of the bacteria in your mouth live and breed on your tongue. As your tongue brushes against your teeth and gums, bacteria migrate. This means that if you don’t brush your tongue when you brush your teeth, you could unwittingly move bacteria from there immediately back to your teeth. 


Problems caused by failing to brush your tongue

It is not just decay causing-bacteria that you have to worry about on your tongue. Many people don’t realize that the key cause of halitosis, or persistent bad breath, is the build-up of foul-smelling bacteria on the soft tissue inside your mouth and, in particular, on your tongue. 

Bad breath is unpleasant, not only for the person suffering from the condition, but also for those around them. If you have persistently bad breath, you may feel very self-conscious or embarrassed. You may even try to avoid getting too close to people. Thankfully, tongue-brushing or cleaning can dramatically improve the smell of your breath.


How to brush your tongue

Brushing your tongue is a relatively straightforward process, made simpler by the fact that you can purchase a tool specifically designed for tongue cleaning.

If you don’t have a tongue cleaning tool, a teaspoon will work just as effectively. The reason that these are recommended rather than just a toothbrush is that, although you can clean your toothbrush after brushing your tongue, there is still a chance that some bacteria may still cling to fibers of the brush and become transferred back to your teeth. Dentists agree that a tongue cleaning tool or spoon is much more effective.

When you brush your tongue, clean from the root of the tongue towards the tip, making your way methodically across the surface. After each scrape, wash any residue off of your tool which will rinse away any bacteria rather than simply moving it across. Pay particular attention to the back of the tongue as this is where the majority of bacteria accumulate. 

Once you have finished scraping your tongue clean, rinse your mouth out with a gentle, fluoride-based mouthwash which will wash away any remaining bacteria and help you mouth feel clean and fresh. It will also continue to improve your breath.


How hard should I scrape my tongue?

If you are too abrasive on the soft tissue of your tongue you could cause minor grazing which will take several days to heal. Instead, apply light pressure and complete smooth strokes. If it hurts, you aren’t doing it right. 


How often do I need to clean my tongue?

Just like teeth, your tongue accumulates bacteria on a daily basis. Therefore, to ensure that you have the best oral health possible you should aim to clean your tongue once per day. Most dentists recommend that you do this last thing at night so that you can clear away all of the bacteria that may have accumulated from what you have eaten and drunk during the day. That way, your entire mouth should be free from bacteria for the 7/8 hours or so while you sleep. 

If you would like more advice on keeping your tongue clean and free from odor-causing bacteria, make an appointment with Haws Family Dentistry.