The tongue is one of the most essential tools in our toolbox when it comes to eating, digesting, tasting, chewing and speaking effectively throughout the day. While this intricate group of muscles is responsible for so much, it’s quite surprising how many people don’t bother to keep it as clean as they should.
So why is cleaning your tongue so important? What happens if we don’t clean it enough? What is the best way to keep it clean and prevent issues like chronic bad breath on a daily basis? Keep reading to learn all that and more from a dentist.
Why Cleaning Your Tongue Matters
Oral bacteria builds up everywhere in the mouth, not just on the teeth and gums. While bacteria loves to get into the many cracks and crevices of teeth, it’s not the only area with nooks and crannies for bacteria to get into. The tongue is covered in papillae, which are tiny bumps that aid the mouth in chewing and swallowing. However, they also allow bacteria, dead skin cells and food debris to easily get caught on top of the tongue.
Throughout the day, mucous covers the tongue, trapping it on its surface and allowing it to fester. This results in chronic bad breath, which can be embarrassing to learn that you have when talking to friends, family or colleagues. However, these bacteria deposits can also redistribute to the teeth and gums, increasing the risk of plaque and tartar buildup.
The Best Way to Clean Your Tongue
The best way to keep your tongue clean is to dedicate an additional 10 to 15 seconds of your oral care routine exclusively to your tongue’s surface. While there are oral devices specifically designed to scrape bacteria and mucous from the tongue, using a toothbrush is just as effective. After cleaning your teeth and gums, spit out residual toothpaste and use the remaining paste in your mouth and on your toothbrush to clean the tongue, cheeks and roof of your mouth, starting from the back. Make sure to pull as much as you can from the back to the front, followed by spitting it out to remove both the bacteria and mucous layer on top.
What to Do If Cleaning Your Tongue is Difficult
Many people complain about triggering their gag reflex while cleaning their tongue, but there is a way to reduce this sensation.
- First, make sure you aren’t scraping or brushing too hard. Always brush oral tissue gently. Scraping too hard only removes valuable skin and leads to irritation and inflammation.
- Clean your tongue slowly to get yourself used to the sensation.
- While cleaning, relax your tongue and exhale fully as you start brushing the sensitive spots. This should help override the gag reflex.
Got more questions on keeping your tongue clean? Schedule an appointment for helpful advice from a dental professional!
About the Author
Dr. Robert Long is an expert on a wide variety of dental topics and continues to receive extensive training on cosmetic, implant and complex restorative dentistry. Of course, that doesn’t mean he isn’t committed to helping patients improve their basic oral care habits too. To learn more advice on improving your at-home care routine, you can contact him through his website.