Do you sometimes suffer from stubborn bad breath, despite the fact that you brush and floss your teeth twice a day? The problem isn’t necessarily your brushing technique — but may in fact be that you aren’t cleaning your tongue properly. Here’s why you shouldn’t overlook tongue cleanliness, and how to keep yours in tip-top shape.
Bacteria builds up on your teeth, hardening into plaque and tartar – and it builds up the same way on your tongue! The surface of your tongue is covered in tiny bumps called papillae, and the grooves of these bumps collect bacteria, dead skin cells, and food particles. Next, that build up becomes coated by a thin layer of mucus. The bacteria and other debris trapped on the tongue can cause bad breath, or halitosis, and a white discoloration of the tongue. In addition, the bacteria on the tongue can redeposit onto teeth and gums, even after they’ve been cleaned, increasing the likelihood of plaque and tartar buildup.
How do I do it?
There are two main ways to clean your tongue: brushing and scraping. Brushing your tongue involves gently scrubbing your tongue front to back and side to side with a toothbrush. This is done most effectively while brushing your teeth – you should spit out excess toothpaste after cleaning your teeth, but before rinsing so that your mouth and toothbrush still have toothpaste residue on them. Then gently scrub your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth before rinsing.
If you’d prefer a different or additional tongue cleaning method, try out a tongue scraper. These inexpensive devices can be purchased at most drug stores. They’re designed to glide along the surface of your tongue, removing the tongue’s layer of mucus, as well as the bacteria and debris trapped underneath. For best results, place the scraper at the back of the tongue while sticking your tongue out and, with even pressure, slide the scraper down along the tongue’s surface towards the tip. Rinse the scraper and repeat, but always make sure to move from the back of the tongue to the front so that you do not accidentally ingest the bacteria being removed. Once the entire surface of the tongue has been scraped, brush and floss your teeth as normal.
How often should I clean my tongue?
Cleaning your tongue should be a part of your daily routine. Bacteria begins to build up on the surface of teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue very soon after brushing, so a daily tongue cleaning, just like regular brushing and flossing, is an important step in warding off oral health issues.
If you have any questions about your tongue, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.