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Caring for Your Tongue is an Important Part of Good Oral Hygiene

woman sticking out tongue

Caring for Your Tongue is an Important Part of Good Oral Hygiene

Do you brush your tongue after you clean your teeth? If you don't, you may increase your risk of tooth decay and bad breath. Regular tongue brushing or scraping is a simple way to keep your smile healthy.

Why It's Important to Keep Your Tongue Clean

Brushing your teeth twice a day is the best way to get rid of plaque, a sticky, bacterial film that causes tooth decay. Unfortunately, brushing your teeth doesn't remove all of the bacteria in your mouth. Your rough tongue contains plenty of nooks and crannies that provide the perfect hiding place for the germs. If you don't brush or scrape your tongue, the bacteria will migrate to your teeth soon after you finish brushing, which may increase your risk of tooth decay.

In a Japanese study, research participants who cleaned their tongues daily had less bacteria in their mouths than those who didn't make brushing a daily habit. The study appeared in the January 2014 issue of BMC Oral Health.

Bacteria is also a contributing factor in bad breath. Brushing or scraping your tongue offers extra protection against breath odors and also removes food debris that can cause bad breath. Cleaning your tongue every time you brush will help you avoid both bad breath and cavities.

Regular tongue brushing or scraping can also help make mealtime more enjoyable. Bacteria and trapped food debris can coat your taste buds, making flavors less intense. You may also notice a white coating on your tongue if your tongue is covered by bacteria.

The Basics of Brushing and Scraping

Brushing your tongue only adds a few seconds to your oral hygiene routine. Begin brushing at the back of your tongue, using gentle pressure to avoid irritation. Although toothpaste isn't necessary, adding a small dab of the paste may help the brush glide over your tongue easily. Don't forget about the underside of your tongue. Bacteria accumulates there too.

Have you tried brushing your tongue before but stopped because the practice triggered your gag reflex? A tongue scraper may offer a better solution. The device scrapes off bacteria, debris and dead cells without causing discomfort.

Rinse your mouth after you brush or scrape your tongue, then use a little mouthwash. Anti-bacterial mouthwashes will kill any bacteria you might have missed. Look for products that don't contain alcohol, as the ingredient can dry your mouth and cause bad breath.

How to Protect Your Tongue

Regular visits to your dentist are essential for good tongue health. During your visit, your dentist looks for signs that may indicate a health problem, such as lumps or lesions that can occur if you have tongue cancer. Changes in the tongue can also be a symptom of other diseases or conditions. For example, a swollen tongue may occur if you have leukemia or anemia, while a dry, cracked tongue may be a symptom of Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.

Visiting your dentist every six months is an excellent way to protect your teeth and your tongue. Has it been a while since we've seen you? Give us a call, and we'll schedule a convenient appointment.


Colgate: How to Clean Your Tongue and Avoid Bad Breath

Reader’s Digest Best Health: Four Things You Should Know About Tongue Health

Healthline: 5 Reasons to Scrape Your Tongue

BMC Oral Health: Effects of tongue cleaning on bacterial flora in tongue coating and dental plaque: a crossover study

Cancer Treatment Centers of America: Tongue Cancer

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