Many people don’t give much thought to their tongue while brushing and flossing. However, your mouth is never truly clean if you fail to brush your tongue. Cleaning your tongue regularly helps to eliminate odor-causing bacteria that can cause halitosis. Tongue brushing also reduces the risk of periodontal disease, a serious infection of the gums that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports the teeth.
Cleaning your Tongue as Part of Your Oral Hygiene
Open your mouth and look at your tongue in a mirror. You’d probably characterize it as a flat, flexible organ that looks relatively clean by sight alone. However, if you look a little closer, you’ll find that the tongue has many crevices, elevations, and hair-like projections called papillae that the taste buds rest atop. In these crevices are billions of bacteria that can accumulate, contributing to bad breath and tooth decay.
The tongue may also be covered with a biofilm. Biofilm is a thin, slimy layer of bacteria that adheres to surfaces like the teeth, gums, and tongue. This biofilm prevents the tongue from being able to fully taste foods, meaning you may not be enjoying your meals as much as you could be. While everyone has biofilm, a thick biofilm caused by poor oral hygiene habits can irritate the gums and cause an inflammatory response in the body.
How to Make Sure it’s Clean
Effectively cleaning the tongue takes just a few minutes a day and can make a big difference in the cleanliness of your mouth. After brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to gently clean the tongue from side to side and front to back. Be sure to brush in multiple directions and use small, circular motions to ensure that you hit every spot. Follow up by rinsing your mouth with water.
Another option involves using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria from your mouth. Tongue scrapers are generally constructed of plastic, stainless steel, or copper, and feature a slightly rounded shape. To use this tool, stick out your tongue and set the rounded end at the back of the tongue. Gently pull the scraper forward towards the tip of the tongue. After each scrape, rinse and remove the debris from the scraper.
The tongue is a delicate organ and can be highly sensitive. Do not be too aggressive when cleaning your tongue as this can cause more harm than good. You do not need to use a lot of pressure to effectively clean the tongue. If the tongue feels irritated, sore, or if you have a wound, cleaning it could cause further pain and irritation. Allow time for the tongue to heal, and if doesn’t, consult with your Florida dentist for a proper diagnosis.