Brushing your tongue is more than “a thing”, it’s important! You likely brush and floss your teeth daily in an effort to maintain good mouth health but you might be wondering if you’re doing enough.
Is there something more you can do to help ensure you adequately fight bacteria and bad breath? Though it might seem useless, cleaning your tongue can actually help you keep your mouth in top health.
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Why should I clean my tongue?
While your teeth are usually quite smooth and don’t provide a place for bacteria to attach and grow on their surface, your tongue is quite the opposite of that. The many peaks and troughs found on your tongue are the perfect place for bacteria to hide and thrive. When your tongue grows bacteria, it can easily transfer to your teeth which can lead to concerns like sensitive teeth, cavities and bad breath.
Effects of not brushing your tongue
The most common reason to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth is to prevent or treat bad breath however it can also help prevent cavities and gum disease as well.
Since the bacteria on your tongue can live there for an extended period of time if you don’t clean it off, it has plenty of opportunity to work its way into the grooves of your tongue and between your teeth. Bacteria can lead to the formation of plaque which, when left on your teeth, can become cavities. Plaque can also irritate gums and cause tooth sensitivities.
Rinsing isn’t enough
Because the buildup on your tongue isn’t just saliva it won’t go away with just rinsing alone. The bacteria on your tongue is actually a biofilm- a group of microorganisms that stick together- and when it has the opportunity to stick to the many cracks and crevices on your tongue it will hold on through rinsing with both water and mouthwash.
When you use a mouthwash to rinse your mouth you do kill off the outer cells of the biofilm, unfortunately leaving the lower layers of bacteria to thrive on your tongue. Because rinsing doesn’t work on its own cleaning your tongue is essential.
How to clean your tongue
Every time you brush your teeth you want to spend an extra minute cleaning your tongue. Though you can buy specific tongue scrapers that can clean your tongue, often your toothbrush will do a great job on its own.
To clean your tongue, after brushing your teeth use your toothbrush to brush your tongue both from front to back and side to side. Being careful not to overbrush and accidentally breaking skin, brushing your tongue a few times in each direction is often enough. When you are done brushing your teeth and tongue rinse your mouth well with water.
Do you still have bad breath?
If you’ve been cleaning your tongue regularly for awhile and are still noticing some signs of bad breath, a visit to your dentist might be in order. Persistent bad breath can be a symptom of a number of different things like tooth decay, an infection, a result of a medication you are taking or possibly even diabetes or cancer.
See your dentist regularly
Even the most in-depth oral care routines will require you to see your dentist regularly for a check up and cleaning. Your dentist can help you stay on top of any concerns and help you create a mouth health routine that works for you. How often you see your dentist is up to you (and possibly your insurance company), but making a plan with them to suit your individual oral care needs will help ensure your mouth stays as healthy as it can.
Brushing your tongue is easy
Though brushing your tongue may seem unusual at first, it is an important and easy step to include in your daily cleaning routine. Not only will you help your teeth stay cleaner, you’ll also be able to fend off any bad breath concerns!