So you brush, you floss and you see your dentist every six months – you think you’re on your best behavior for protecting your teeth but …
Consider the other part of your mouth that could cause trouble if you don’t also keep it clean. We’re speaking of the part known as your tongue. Keeping this kindly beast clean can actually help you stay healthier and fresher smelling (in your mouth, that is) over the long haul.
Why it’s good to clean your tongue
1. The tongue’s important — its surface is like the surface of, say, a coral reef – filled with small tubers (in the case of the tongue, they’re called papillae) that give you the sense of taste and texture when you eat or drink or put something you shouldn’t into your mouth.
2. Bad bacteria afoot — The tongue can foster a goodly number of bacteria. Granted, not all bacteria in the body is bad for you (in fact, most are good) but certain bacteria species can lead to tooth decay, gum infections and bad breath (halitosis). Plaque is a form of this, as you probably know, which creates a biofilm that coats your teeth, leading to cavities.
3. Flotsam — On top of this, the tongue often carries food residue and dead cells that can wreak havoc in your mouth, if not removed. Properly cleaning your tongue will prevent much of this trouble and keep your mouth healthy (and healthy-smelling!). Indeed, research shows that cleaning the tongue can clear bacteria and improve bad breath more than brushing alone.
4. Good taste — Research indicates that cleaning your tongue can actually improve your sense of taste. When you scrape or clean the surface of the tongue, it’s almost the same as starting with a whole new palette! After properly cleaning your tongue for a couple of weeks, see if you’ll notice stronger flavors the next time you eat!
5. Bigger problems — Cleaning your tongue gives you an opportunity to examine it for signs of something wrong – if you see a white, black or red discoloration – or ongoing sores, wounds or pain, make an appointment and consult your dentist (us) for further investigation – don’t let it go for too long!
Cleaning your tongue the right way
Now if the idea of reaching in there and cleaning/scraping your tongue makes you want to gag, don’t worry – it’s not as uncomfortable as you might think, especially as you get used to it — trust us, the benefits outweigh the time and effort.
Method 1 – Brushing – So you brush your teeth twice a day, do you? While you’re at it, use your trusty toothbrush to gently clean your tongue with a small dab of toothpaste. It’s like you’re cleaning your carpet – only a lot more often (and a lot smaller area than a carpet).
Method 2 – Tongue Scraping – Tongue scrapers are made of plastic, copper or stainless steel and are available at most pharmacies, usually for under $10.
Brush your teeth, floss and rinse as usual. Then, stick out your tongue and gently press and hold the scraper once or twice along the entire surface, starting at the back of the tongue and scraping forward. Apply enough pressure as you see fit to get it to work. After each pass, rinse the scraper with warm water and then rinse your mouth with water. Ahhh…
A Clean Scrape
Tongue scraping or tongue brushing just might be the answer to problems like bad breath, cavity prevention, gum disease prevention — plus, it will make you more aware of what’s going on inside your mouth.