Here’s my thoughts on why you should include cleaning your tongue as part of your daily routine.
Check out your tongue...Many of the bacteria in your mouth live on your tongue. It does not have a smooth surface and all those bumps and crevices can harbor disease causing bacteria. When you clean your tongue, you do more than just help fight bad breath. Cleaning your tongue every time you brush helps to reduce the number of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. It can also help to improve your sense of taste.
Pick a tool…You can find name-brand tongue cleaning tools at many grocery stores and pharmacies or you can easily order a tongue cleaner online. There are different types of tongue cleaning tools. Tongue scrapers are the most common. You may also find specific tongue brushes. All tongue cleaners have a series of soft ridges for pulling (scraping) across the tongue. Some are made of metal (stainless steel or copper), most are plastic and should be replaced regularly. In a pinch the curved end of a teaspoon would work fine. Or you could ask your dental hygienist for a recommendation.
Action… Stick your tongue out as far as you comfortably can to make sure that you clean as much of your tongue as possible. Sticking your tongue out all the way helps to avoid gagging. Breathing through your nose (if possible) while scraping your tongue will also help to avoid gagging. Scrape or brush your tongue slowly and gently from the back of the tongue towards the front of your mouth. Do this a few times. You will see some buildup on the tongue scraper. Rinse it off and repeat gently and slowly until no more buildup comes off. Rinse your mouth. You could use a toothbrush if you want, but be careful only to brush gently from back to front and not in any scouring circular motion. You don’t want to irritate your tongue. Just follow the same steps. Make sure you use a soft toothbrush so you don’t hurt your tongue. Your soft toothbrush may not be as effective as the soft bristles are made for cleaning your teeth and gums and not for scraping the soft muscle of your tongue.
Watch out…Be sure to see your oral health professional to ask questions if you think the appearance of your tongue changes or if any tongue pain develops and lingers and is not connected to an injury. We all know that it really hurts when you accidently bite your tongue and even more when you bite it again in the same place before the first bite has healed!