How to Clean Your Tongue

Your tongue is the epicentre of your mouth. Not only does it allow you to eat and speak, but it’s also the gateway towards strong oral health.

Think of how large your tongue is. It reaches all the way to your teeth in its natural resting position and goes as far back as the top of your throat, where it’s anchored into the base of your hyoid bone. With so much surface area, your tongue has the potential to harbour a lot of bacteria. Cleaning your tongue is an important step towards a hygienic mouth and a sparkling smile.

Why Do I Need to Clean My Tongue?

How does your tongue collect bacteria? Your tongue’s surface is covered by tiny bumps called papillae, so the grooves in between these bumps are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria microbes.

As such, bacteria builds up on your tongue just as it does along your teeth and gums. In fact, on average, approximately 80% of the bacteria in your mouth lives on your tongue. That’s a lot of bacteria, considering there are anywhere between 500–650 different species of bacteria in your mouth, accounting for over 100 billion microbes of bacteria over the course of a day.

Cleaning Your Tongue to Avoid Bad Breath and Gingivitis

A backlog of bacteria in your mouth causes a host of different problems, including halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, and gingivitis, inflammation of the gums due to plaque.

So if you brush your teeth twice a day and take good care of your oral health in general, you might notice that your breath still occasionally turns people the wrong way. A dirty tongue could be to blame!

Ways to Clean Your Tongue

There are two main ways to clean your tongue: brushing and scraping.

Brush Your Tongue

Using your toothbrush is the most convenient tool for cleaning your tongue. After you have finished brushing your teeth, simply take your toothbrush covered in a small touch of toothpaste and gently brush the top of your tongue to help kill bacteria that causes bad breath.

For a more thorough clean, some advanced toothbrushes have a built-in tongue-cleaning brush to help counteract that tongue’s sponge-like properties that hold some bacteria in tight.

Tongue-Cleaning Scrapers

For a full clean, consider getting a speciality scraper that’s designed particularly for tongue cleaning. Tongue scrapers, often made of soft, plastic bristles, help to peel off thin layers of mucus on the surface of your tongue that make some bacteria difficult to eradicate.

Be gentle with tongue scrapers, however. If you feel pain or if there’s small amounts of bleeding, you’re scraping too hard.

How Often To Clean Your Tongue

Cleaning your tongue after each time you brush and floss your teeth is easy to do and goes a long way towards fresh breath and reducing your odds of getting gingivitis. It only takes an extra minute in the bathroom and is an integral part of a healthy mouth.

This post was originally published by Clayburn Dental in April 2017. Clayburn Dental is one of Canada’s largest dental practices and has been serving the Abbotsford, BC community for over 25 years.