Brushing our teeth at least twice a day, and flossing regularly, is all necessary for good oral hygiene. It fights tooth decay and gingivitis, and of course, it helps prevent bad breath.
There has been some debate in the past regarding whether brushing the tongue should be included in the daily regimen of keeping the mouth, gums, and teeth healthy and halitosis-free (i.e., free of bad breath). The American Dental Association lays the debate to rest, as it supports brushing the tongue in addition to regular flossing and brushing of the teeth.
Why Brushing the Tongue Is Important
The tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria lives on the tongue and contributes to bad breath. Therefore, if you’re brushing your teeth but neglecting the tongue, then you’re only doing half the job at removing the bacteria in your mouth.
The tongue comes into contact with all of the food and drinks you consume – and you may notice that, as you eat or after you’ve eaten, your tongue is often coated with the colors of the food you’ve eaten. Leftover food particles leave behind bacteria that gather along the structures of the tongue. You may not be able to see those structures, but there are bumps and tiny craters that line the tongue, along with your taste buds.
These crevices, bumps, and taste buds are a landing ground for the food we eat and the bacteria left behind. That’s why cleaning the bacteria out of these structures is crucial, and rinsing the mouth isn’t enough to get the job done.
The coating on the tongue is evidence of biofilm. The biofilm is made up of tiny, bacteria-containing microorganisms.
Getting rid of the biofilm requires some effort to physically dislodge the bacteria with a brush. Swishing with mouthwash will only remove the surface bacteria, which are the outer cells of the biofilm.
Rinsing will perhaps stifle bad breath for a short period of time, but removing deeper biofilm cells is necessary to eliminate bad breath for longer periods – and more importantly, to aid in the fight against tooth decay brought on by bacteria that lives in the mouth for a long time, because it hasn’t been dislodged from the tongue’s bumpy surface. Cleaning the tongue by brushing is the only way to thoroughly dislodge the bacteria.
How to Brush Your Tongue
It’s really not that big of a deal to clean the bacteria from your tongue. Adding brushing your tongue to the daily regimen of brushing your teeth adds very little time – only a few seconds! – and the benefits are great.
Whenever you brush your teeth, which should be at least two times a day, brush your tongue also. Brush the tongue gently, starting at the front of your tongue. Then sweep your tongue with the toothbrush, from side to side and then back and forth, and finish by rinsing your mouth out with water.
Perhaps brushing the tongue is a little scary to some folks who fear gagging. This is easily prevented: Don’t place the toothbrush too far back in your mouth, but try to get the brush as far back as possible without making it unpleasant.
People who gag easily can try panting lightly as they brush to counteract the gag reflex. For this reason especially, wait until you’ve finished brushing your teeth and your mouth is rinsed of the toothpaste before brushing your tongue.
Does a Tongue Scraper Work as Well as Brushing the Tongue?
Strive to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth. If you would like to try a tongue scraper instead of brushing, that’s fine.
However, be aware that the American Dental Association reports that there is no evidence that tongue scrapers prevent bad breath. Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush will rid the tongue of bacteria living in the biofilm coating the tongue and will also freshen your breath.
Family Dentist in the Twin Cities
There are medical conditions that induce bad breath from the inside, and all the tongue brushing in the world won’t make it go away. Make an appointment with a skilled dentist so that they can diagnose whether halitosis (bad breath) is related to an oral condition or if you should be referred to a doctor or specialist for a separate condition.
Diabetes, sinusitis, infections, and gastrointestinal problems may be the culprit behind bad breath, but an evaluation by the dentist is crucial in getting to the bottom of the issue so it can be fixed.
Hagerman Dental Care provides a full range of family and cosmetic dentistry. If you’re concerned about halitosis that doesn’t disappear with good oral hygiene practices, or if you’re looking for an excellent dentist in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area, please call us for an appointment at (651) 646-2392 or fill out our online appointment request form. We look forward to hearing from you.