How do you keep your smile looking and feeling its best? While daily brushing and flossing are a key part of maintaining great oral health, they don’t clean a large part of your mouth: your tongue! You may not realize it, but this important group of muscles collects just as much plaque and bacteria over the day as your pearly whites. Read on as your Carlsbad dentist explains why you should be cleaning your tongue every day as well as how to do it properly.
A Healthy Tongue & Happy Smile
Although your tongue looks smooth, it’s actually covered in small bumps called papillae. The grooves between these bumps easily trap plaque, bacteria, food particles, and dead skin cells, which are then held in place by a thin layer of mucus. Not only will brushing or scraping away all this embedded debris make your mouth feel fresher, but it can also:
- Prevent bad breath: As the trapped particles begin to decay, they release volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath. Recent studies indicate that cleaning your tongue can remove up to 75% of these stinky compounds.
- Reduce oral bacteria: While your mouth is naturally full of oral bacteria, too much of it can cause issues for your health. It’s important to clear away excess bacteria from your tongue to keep it from causing oral infections or spreading to other parts of your body, like your lungs.
- Lower risk of tooth decay and gum disease: The plaque and bacteria on your tongue may also be redeposited onto your teeth or gums, which can lead to increased chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
Tongue Cleaning Techniques
Thankfully, there are several easy ways to clean your tongue. One of the most popular is with the use of a dental device called a tongue scraper. To use it, place it on your tongue at the back of your mouth and gently pull forward, scraping off the mucus and its contents. Once the scraper has reached the tip of your tongue, rinse it off and scrape the next section.
If you prefer, you can also clean your tongue with the same toothbrush you use for your teeth. After brushing, gently massage your tongue with your dampened toothbrush. Start on the back of your tongue and slowly work your way forward with small, circular strokes to dislodge the particles. When you’ve finished brushing the entire surface of your tongue, don’t forget to rinse off your toothbrush!
Brushing or scraping your tongue regularly is an important part of keeping your mouth healthy. This extra step in your dental routine is a great way to keep your smile clean and fresh.
About the Author
Dr. Megan Shelton and her talented team at Polished General Dentistry in Carlsbad, CA are dedicated to helping you maintain a happy, healthy smile for life. She is a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Dentistry and is certified in several advanced treatments like laser dentistry and Invisalign. Thanks to her active memberships in organizations like the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health and countless hours of continuing education, she stays current with the newest dental technology and techniques. If you have questions about cleaning your tongue, feel free to reach her via her website or at (760) 434-9800.