When most people think about oral hygiene, they think about cleaning their teeth and gums and often forget about brushing their tongues. The truth of the matter is that your tongue can harbor just as much bacteria, if not more, than your teeth and just below your gum lines. This means that if you are neglecting the hygiene of your tongue by not brushing your tongue, you could be doing your oral health a disservice.
Bacteria and Your Tongue
Your tongue contains many crevices between the taste buds, and each of these crevices can be used as habitats for bacteria. If you are having trouble visualizing this, think about every time you drink or eat something red, like fruit juice, cherries or raspberries. Your tongue quickly turns the color of the berries or drink, and in order to remove that staining, you have to brush it away. The same is true for the bacteria that thrive on your tongue. It must be brushed away.
Tongue Bacteria, Tooth Decay, and Gum Disease
Excessive amounts of bacteria in the mouth can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, even the bacteria on your tongue. This is because every time you eat or drink something that isn’t water, the bacteria have a food source, and they use that food source to multiply. The replication of the bacteria in your mouth and on your tongue, causes an acid attack on your teeth, weakening the enamel and potentially leading to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
Why Mouthwash Isn’t Adequate
You may think that if you brush and floss your teeth then use mouthwash, you are killing and rinsing away the last remnants of bacteria and food particles. This isn’t quite true. While using a mouthwash that contains an antiseptic can kill more of the bacteria in your mouth, it doesn’t kill all of it, especially when it comes to your tongue.
When we talk about bacteria on the tongue, we are talking about a resilient and sticky biofilm that coats your tongue and every crevice. When you use mouthwash, the antiseptic in that mouthwash kills the top layer. It doesn’t move deep enough within the crevices to kill all the bacteria and rinse it away.
Tongue Cleaning Tools
There are several different types of products on the market that can help you keep your tongue clean, including tongue scrapers, tongue brushes, and tongue pastes. If you are more comfortable with using a dedicated tongue cleaner to brush and scrape away all the bacteria, use a dedicated tool. However, you can also simply use your regular toothbrush and toothpaste.
Steps to Cleaning Your Tongue
Good oral hygiene always starts with brushing and flossing your teeth with an ADA approved toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. Once you’ve finished brushing and flossing, it’s time to clean your tongue. If you are using a dedicated tongue cleaning device and tongue cleaning toothpaste, go ahead and prepare those items. If you are using your normal toothbrush, rinse it and apply more of your regular paste.
- Gently brush from front to back across the entire length of your tongue. Be careful not to reach the brush into your throat or you could activate your gag reflex and accidentally scrape the soft tissues with the bristles.
- Start at the back of your tongue and brush from side to side, making sure to reach the side edges of your tongue. This will ensure that you’ve covered every section of the top of your tongue and between the taste buds.
- Thoroughly rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water to remove all the paste and dead bacteria cells.
- Remember to brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth. This will help reduce the numbers of bad bacteria in your mouth and help you prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Keeping Your Mouth Healthy with Our Dentist in West Melbourne
Our dentist in West Melbourne can help you keep your teeth, gums, and tongue healthy with regular checkups and oral health care tips and advice. We can even recommend the appropriate oral hygiene tools to help you keep your tongue clean.
To schedule an appointment with our West Melbourne dentist, call us at 321-724-1400.