When you think about oral hygiene, the usual suspects come to mind: brushing, flossing, and gargling mouthwash. Unfortunately, an integral part often gets overlooked – cleaning the tongue. Yes, this taste bud titan also deserves much attention! Read on to learn how a clean tongue can help keep your mouth healthy.
The Benefits of a Clean Tongue
A clean tongue not only enhances the sense of taste but also helps lower bacterial levels in the mouth. Studies from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) and the Journal of Dental Hygiene reveal that tongue bacteria are the leading cause of bad breath. So, giving your tongue a thorough cleaning can likely lower the incidence of halitosis.
Additionally, the accumulation of debris and bacteria can produce white patches or coating on the tongue. If this persists for more than two weeks, see your dentist to rule out potential issues like a fungal or immune-related infection.
Keeping your tongue healthy has several other benefits:
- Improved taste buds
- Prevention of white tongue or tongue coating
- Reduced plaque buildup
- Increased protection from gum disease
- Lower risk of tooth decay
How to Clean Your Tongue
You can use a toothbrush to remove food particles and bacteria on your tongue. However, the IJERPH study reveals that a tongue scraper produces better results. Learn more about both options here:
Cleaning the tongue with a toothbrush
Twice daily, preferably after brushing your teeth, gently sweep the toothbrush’s bristles across the surface of your tongue. After cleaning, rinse your mouth to wash away bacteria or any residue.
Pro tip: Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to protect the tongue and dental enamel. Alternatively, you can opt for a brush with a textured surface on the back designed for tongue cleaning.
Cleaning the tongue with a tongue scraper
According to Maeve O’Sullivan, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, tongue scraping has roots tracing back more than 5,000 years in India and Ayurvedic medicine. “The idea is that it clears toxins, bacteria, and dead cells that build up overnight whilst you sleep and also prevents them from being reabsorbed in the body,” she explains.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to achieving a clean tongue through scraping:
- Stand in front of a mirror and stick your tongue out.
- Place a clean scraper as far back on your tongue as possible and gently scrape towards the tip in one long stroke.
- Repeat the scraping motion up to 10 times, rinsing the scraper after each use.
- Once done, clean your scraper with warm water and soap. Store in a clean and dry place to keep it hygienic for future use.
Types of tongue scrapers
When selecting a tongue scraper, consider your needs and preferences. Fortunately, there are various options available:
- Plastic scraper: This inexpensive and easy-to-use option features a simple, curved design with a smooth surface.
- Metal scraper: Made from materials like stainless steel or copper, a metal tongue scraper offers durability and a broader cleaning surface.
- Brush scraper: This type of tongue scraper resembles a longer toothbrush with an easy-to-grip handle. It has spongey bristles that effectively clean the tongue without being too abrasive.
Other Ways to Keep Your Mouth Clean
Besides brushing or scraping your tongue, the Australian Dental Association suggests these tips to help you maintain excellent oral hygiene:
- Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
- Use floss or interdental brushes
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid smoking
- Limit intake of sugary foods and drinks
- Schedule regular dental checkups
You might also find it difficult to clean the tight spaces between overcrowded or misaligned teeth. Unfortunately, this can increase the risk of bacteria buildup in the mouth. In such instances, consult your dentist for the most suitable solution. If you need to undergo teeth straightening via orthodontics, consider ClearCorrect. These dental aligners are discreet, comfortable, and completely removable. And, yes, they allow you to brush your teeth and clean your tongue as usual.
Remember: If you suffer from morning breath that lingers all day, it’s time to elevate your oral hygiene routine. Consider adding a step like scraping to achieve a clean tongue. And don’t forget to talk to your dentist about your specific needs for a healthier mouth.
Arjun, T. N., Dwivedi, V., & Tyagi, S. (2019). Effectiveness of various tongue cleaning aids in the reduction of tongue coating and bacterial load: a comparative clinical study. The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, 20(4), 444–448.
Choi, H., Cho, Y., & Koo, J. (2021). The effect of mechanical tongue cleaning on oral malodor and tongue coating. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(1), 108.
Coates, H. (2021, September 22). Tongue scraping: the holistic practice I swear by for a healthy smile. British Vogue.
Mazzone, D. (2022, May 24). Why is everyone suddenly into tongue scraping. . . and should you be doing it too? Allure.
Should I clean my tongue? – Australian Dental Association. (n.d.). Teeth.org.au.