picture of a toothbrush with toothpaste on it

The practice of tongue cleaning has existed in different cultures throughout the world for centuries. Research has shown that regularly cleaning your tongue can result in a reduced amount of unwanted bacteria in the mouth, resulting in better, fresher breath, reduced plaque buildup, and better oral health overall. Some studies have shown that tongue scrapers are the most effective way of cleaning the tongue, however, most experts agree that cleaning the tongue with a toothbrush and mouthwash can still be very effective when done properly.  

Tongue Scrapers 

Tongue scraping instruments tend to be metal or plastic. Select one that fits your preferences. To scrape the tongue using a tongue scraper, start by sticking your tongue out as far as you can and placing the scraper at the back of the tongue. Apply pressure to the scraper as you pull it forward along the length of your tongue to the tip. Rinse the scraper under the tap with warm water and repeat the process 2-5 times, taking care to rinse the instrument between each use.  

Cleaning your Tongue with your Toothbrush 

Many people prefer to clean their tongue with a toothbrush instead of using a tongue scraper, as they are already using their toothbrushes twice a day. As with using a tongue scraper, you start by sticking your tongue out as far as you can and brushing back and forth on the tongue starting at the back and working towards the tip. You can do this each time you brush your teeth. 

Does Mouthwash Clean your Tongue? 

Mouth rinses or washes can help to clean the tongue, especially when used in conjunction with a toothbrush. It is best to use a therapeutic mouthwash that contains active ingredients that will eliminate the bacteria in your mouth that can cause bad breath and other oral health conditions. Mouthwashes can be found over the counter or online. You may also want to ask your dentist to recommend or prescribe a mouthwash for you. Make sure to always follow the mouthwash’s instructions to achieve the best results. 

What are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Tongue? 

Decreased Bad Breath 

There have been many studies that have concluded that using a tongue scraper can help to reduce the sulfur compounds on the tongue that result in bad breath. A tongue scraper will remove as much as 75% of these compounds whereas a toothbrush is likely to remove only 45% of them. 

Reduced Bacteria in the Mouth 

Studies have also shown that cleaning the tongue reduces bacteria on the tongue and in the mouth, but that bacteria levels will only remain low if the tongue is cleaned regularly. Dentists and experts agree that to maintain optimal oral health, you should brush your teeth and clean your tongue twice a day. 

Reduced Plaque 

A lot of research has been conducted to determine whether tongue cleaning results in decreased plaque. These studies have found that when regular tongue cleaning occurs, either by a tongue scraper or toothbrush, plaque levels are significantly reduced. 

Overall Fresher Feeling Mouth 

Routinely cleaning the tongue will not only result in fresher breath and fewer bacteria in the mouth but it has also been proven to leave you with a mouth that feels cleaner and fresher in general.  

When to See your Dentist 

Tongue cleaning also provides an opportunity to inspect the health of your tongue regularly. If you notice any abnormal changes to your tongue, you should visit a doctor or your dentist as soon as possible. If you experience or notice any of the following issues with your tongue, seek medical attention right away: 

  • If your tongue looks white or has developed white patches; some of the conditions that will cause this are oral thrush, leukoplakia, oral lichen planus, and oral cancer. 
  • If your tongue looks red or develops patches that are red or pink; this may be a sign of geographic tongue or another condition 
  • If the surface of your tongue appears smooth or glossy 
  • If your tongue appears yellow, black, or hairy 
  • If the tongue is hurt or injured due to sustained trauma 
  • If your tongue is sore or develops lumps or sores that don’t heal or disappear after a few weeks 
  • If you have sustained severe burns on the tongue 

Whether you choose to use a tongue scraper or toothbrush, the research and experts agree that tongue cleaning is an excellent addition to anyone’s oral health routine. In addition to routine tongue cleaning, be sure to brush your teeth twice a day, floss daily, and see your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. If you want to learn more about how to properly clean your tongue and the benefits of this practice, or how we can help to support your oral health, contact us at our Guelph Dentist’s office today!  

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