Brushing and flossing your teeth is taught from childhood, but have you ever considered cleaning your tongue? Tongue cleaning has been practiced in India since ancient times because they believed it removed toxic debris from the body. When deciding whether or not to begin tongue cleaning, you may think it’s pretty gross. However, it’s far more offensive not to clean the tongue since it houses most of the bacteria in the mouth. Your tongue may seem smooth, but taste buds and other structures form crevices and elevations on the surface providing an ideal environment for microorganisms to live and breed. If the bacteria isn’t physically removed, problems can arise such as:
- Bad Breath (Halitosis)- bacteria not removed from the tongue causes halitosis. Studies show that continuously removing the bacteria eliminates 68% of halitosis.
- Dental Issues- Bacteria living and reproducing on the tongue leads to unhealthy teeth and gums.
- Altered Taste- the taste buds being covered by bacterial film results in food not tasting as good.
- Immune System Difficulties- some believe that toxins from the body excrete through the tongue and not removing them precipitates immune system dysfunction.
There are many methods and tools available to achieve a clean tongue including:
- Toothbrush- while some people use the same brush for teeth and tongue, others prefer to use a separate brush-especially when you begin brushing the tongue. The bristles are beneficial in getting into the grooves of the tongue. Begin by putting a small amount of toothpaste on the brush, and place the brush at the back of the tongue moving forward and repeat until the entire tongue is cleaned.
- Tongue Cleaner- This is a tool that has a single row of rubber bristles which sweep over and into the grooves of the tongue. It’s used as you would a toothbrush and with or without toothpaste.
- Tongue Scraper- A tongue scraper is usually a U shaped piece of plastic or metal and has a smooth edge. Because it has a smooth edge, it doesn’t get down into the grooves of the tongue. It’s used by placing on the back of the tongue and moving it forward. After each sweep, rinse it off and repeat until the scraper no longer has debris on it after scraping.
- Dental Floss- while not ideal, floss can be used if you have no other option. Simply wrap the floss around each index finger and glide it across the tongue using a new piece of floss with each sweep.
Regardless of which method and tool you choose, breathe through your nose or hold your breath while cleaning to prevent gagging. Tongue cleaning should become part of your regular oral hygiene routine and done at least twice per day.