Improve Your Dental Health by Cleaning Your Tongue Regularly
From a very young age, we are taught about the importance of brushing our teeth and how keeping our mouths clean promotes good oral health and keeps our smiles looking great. These teachings generally focus on the teeth themselves, but close attention should also be given to the cleanliness of the other parts of our mouths, including the tongue. Learn about the importance of cleaning the tongue regularly, and how to do it right.
When you take a shower, do you only clean your upper body and leave your legs alone? When you wash your face, do you skip your forehead? Of course not! So, when you clean your mouth, are you just brushing your teeth but tend to ignore the large, pink muscular organ residing within your mouth? A surprising number of people spend very little or no time at all cleaning their tongues as part of their regular oral care habits, which can contribute to a wide range of dental health issues.
It’s a fact that cleaning your tongue is an important part of personal hygiene, so if you’re not currently including this in your oral health routine, we’re here to explain why you should start, and how to clean your tongue properly.
“Why would my tongue need to be cleaned?”
If you’re near a mirror, take a quick second, stick your tongue out as far as you can, and get a good close look at it. What do you see? For starters, you’ll notice that it’s covered in little bumps, called papillae, and thousands of taste buds. This gives the tongue a somewhat rough texture compared to the other tissues in our mouths like the gums and inside surfaces of the cheeks. This rough texture provides an easy surface for bacteria to cling to and accumulate.
Looking closer towards the middle of the tongue and near the back, you may notice a whitish or yellowish film covering parts of the tongue. This film is produced by the combination of saliva and bacteria that exists in our mouths, which gradually accumulates on surfaces that it can stick to, such as on our tongues and in the cracks and crevices around our teeth in the form of plaque.
Quite simply, the reason to clean your tongue is to help minimize the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth that is the cause of a wide range of dental health issues, from annoyances like foul breath and tooth discoloration to more serious conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease.
“What happens if I never clean my tongue?”
Brushing our teeth thoroughly helps remove the sticky bacterial film that builds up around our teeth and gums, but if you’re not spending any time cleaning it off your tongue, it’s not going anywhere. That bacterial film will start to cause foul breath, as the by-products of bacterial reproduction create nasty odours. Unless this bacterial build-up is removed, bad breath will persist.
As this film proceeds to grow over the surfaces of the tongue even more, it often affects the ability to taste foods. Covering up the taste buds with a thick coating of bacteria isn’t doing you any favours, and your enjoyment of food and drink will likely be reduced.
The bacteria on the tongue will also begin to spread to other parts of the mouth if it is allowed to grow unchecked. You’ll develop plaque and tartar on and around your teeth at a faster rate, your risk of gum disease can increase significantly, and you’ll also have a higher chance of experiencing tooth decay and cavities. Overall, cleaning your tongue is an effective way to promote good oral health and should be an important part of your preventive dental health care routine.
“How can I clean my tongue properly?”
Excellent question! Cleaning the tongue is quite simple, really. It takes just a few moments, and ideally should be done whenever you brush your teeth. Tongue cleaning works best when performed after brushing and flossing, but before the final rinse of the mouth. To get best results when cleaning your tongue and to make it as easy and fast as possible, a tongue scraper should be used. These simple oral care tools are widely available for just a few dollars at pharmacies and most other retailers who have a toothpaste and toothbrush aisle.
Using a tongue scraper is very easy. With gentle pressure, all you need to do is draw the scraper across the surface of your tongue from back to front. Rinse off the scraper with cold water prior to each scrape to avoid putting the scraped-off bacterial film back into your mouth, and repeat until the entire surface of your tongue has been cleaned. Sometimes, depending on how much bacterial film is present, it may take two or three passes along the surface of the tongue to remove it all.
Some tongue scrapers feature a set of toothbrush-style bristles on the opposite side. This is to be used after the initial scraping to further loosen off any stubborn accumulation and gently scrub every nook and cranny in between the papillae and taste buds for an even better clean. A quick rinse of the mouth with cold water helps wash away any remaining film that was loosened during the scraping and brushing process. Rinsing with an antibacterial oral rinse is even better, and will work to leave your tongue and the rest of your mouth fresher and healthier.
In the event that you do not have a tongue scraper, you can also clean your tongue using just your toothbrush. After brushing your teeth, but before you rinse the toothpaste off, use your toothbrush with gentle pressure to scrub your tongue from back to front. The bristles of your toothbrush will help to loosen off the bacterial film and allow it to be rinsed away when you swish your mouth with water or mouthwash. Be sure to thoroughly rinse off your toothbrush afterwards and wash away the remaining toothpaste residue to keep it clean.
If you find that you occasionally experience a gag reflex when you are using your scraper or toothbrush to clean your tongue, this is a sign that you’re using a little too much pressure. It’s best to ease off on the pressure and go back for an extra scrape/brush or two rather than push too hard. It will be more comfortable for you, and help ensure you get your tongue as clean as possible.
Kids should be encouraged to brush their tongues as well. It’s far easier to develop tongue cleaning as a regular habit the sooner if you start young. So, if you have kids, make sure you share the importance of keeping the tongue clean, and show them how to do it properly so this positive habit gets established as part of their daily oral health care routine.
“What are the benefits of cleaning my tongue?”
There are several health benefits to be obtained by adding tongue cleaning to your regular routine of oral care. The first and most immediate effect you’ll notice from cleaning your tongue is that your breath will be fresher for longer periods of time. As foul breath is caused by bacteria, removing more of it from your mouth when you brush your teeth and clean your tongue will help reduce total bacterial growth throughout the day, keeping your breath fresher for longer.
Cleaning the tongue also helps to lower your risks of developing dental health conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, and bacterial infections of the soft tissues in the mouth. If left unchecked, tooth decay can eventually lead to tooth loss, infections in the root of the teeth, and even bone density loss. Furthermore, gum disease can potentially become a life-threatening condition if allowed to persist untreated. Taking preventive action to minimize the risks associated with these conditions is essential to maintaining a good state of dental health and keeping your smile looking great.
Make Tongue Cleaning a Regular Part of Your Oral Care Routine Starting Now!
If you’ve not been including tongue cleaning as part of your regular tooth brushing routine, give it a try starting today! We’re confident that you’ll be impressed at how immediate and noticeable the benefits will be. Fresher breath, better taste experiences, and improved overall dental health are all yours to be had, simply by giving your tongue a little extra attention when you clean your teeth and mouth. If you’re curious to learn more about the advantages of tongue cleaning, we’d be glad to answer any questions you may have.
Contact the team here at Georgian Dental today to arrange for your next dental appointment. We look forward to helping you keep your smile in style!
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