Brush your teeth three times a day — the immortal mantra of proper oral hygiene. There’s no denying that a solid oral hygiene routine, backed by proper tools and brushing techniques, will keep our pearly whites pearly. But is good oral hygiene all about tooth brushing? Or are there parts of the oral cavity we frequently ignore?
The practice of tongue cleaning varies in frequency from one culture to another, but it’s definitely not as pervasive as tooth brushing. And there’s no apparent reason why. The tongue plays a vital role in the food consumption process and even harbors more bacteria than the teeth themselves!
It’s time for tongue cleaning to become a staple of your oral hygiene routine! That is why today’s article will teach you all about the most effective tongue-cleaning methods: tongue brushing and tongue scraping!
Table of Contents
Is Tongue Cleaning Important for My Oral Health?
There are a lot of bacteria living in your mouth at any time — about 20 billion of them! Some of them keep the ecosystem in place, whereas others — such as gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria — accumulate in plaque and the tongue itself, causing chronic bad breath (by producing volatile sulfur compounds), gum disease, and cavities.
50% of these harmful bacteria populate the tongue, where they produce a biofilm between the taste buds. Unfortunately, the good-ol’ mouthwash only scratches the surface of this biofilm. Without proper tongue cleaning methods, the harmful bacteria will only multiply and hamstring any oral health routine.
What are the Benefits of Tongue Cleaning?
The reasons why tongue scrapers and cleaners deserve a solid spot in your hygiene routine are numerous and far-reaching! But to give you just a taste of what cleaning your tongue regularly can do, here’s a list of three key benefits:
- Healthier taste buds: The more consistently you clean your tongue, the better your favorite dishes will taste!
- Tongue cleaning helps reduce bad breath: The bacteria responsible for unpleasant breath thrive in the tongue unless frequently removed.
- Tip-top overall health: the oral cavity is interconnected with the rest of the body (e.g., the cardiovascular system), which is why keeping it healthy will benefit your overall health.
How to Clean Your Tongue
The two most popular approaches to appropriately and efficiently cleaning your tongue are tongue brushing and tongue scraping. Neither of the two, however, will render any tangible results without patience and perseverance. So buckle up, give your tongue a good scrub, and watch how your oral health takes a turn for the better!
#1: Brush Your Tongue With Toothpaste
The most readily-available tongue-cleaning technique is tongue brushing. The whole process is nothing but straightforward:
- Squeeze a bit of toothpaste on your soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Gently brush your tongue with circular motions a few times every time you brush your teeth (at least twice a day). Apply light pressure to the tongue to avoid any discomfort or injury.
- You’ll notice that the debris will gradually disappear, leaving your tongue clean and pink. That’s when you know that cleaning your tongue was a success.
No two dental professionals concur on the efficacy of tongue brushing. For example, some believe brushing only pushes the biofilm further into the tongue’s surface, making matters worse. For them, scraping your tongue is the most effective tongue-cleaning method.
Can Brushing My Tongue Make It Bleed?
Yes, overzealous brushing can lead to cuts and injuries to the tongue. The tongue is one of the body’s most vascularized organs, so don’t be alarmed if it bleeds more than a scraped knee.
Tongue cleaning calls for patience and perseverance, so don’t try to rush it. Vigorous brushing will only worsen your oral health and deter you from cleaning your tongue in the future.
#2: Using a Tongue Scraper
Tongue scraping is a special technique designed to thoroughly remove bacteria from the tongue’s surface, including the ones impervious to tongue brushing. It involves a tongue scraper, a simple round-shaped tool made from either metal or plastic, to clean the entire surface of the tongue.
The most popular types of tongue scrapers are:
- The plastic tongue scraper: a simple, U-shaped plastic wire.
- The metal tongue scraper: it only differs from the plastic ones material-wise (i.e., copper or stainless steel). With proper care, they last longer than plastic tongue scrapers.
- The brush tongue scraper: it uses a tip equipped with bristles to scrape the surface of the tongue. These scrapers are smaller in dimension than metal or plastic ones, which is why you’ll need multiple passes to clean the entire tongue. We recommend that you change it every 3-4 months.
Once you’re done brushing your teeth and are ready for the next step (i.e., cleaning your tongue):
- Stick out your tongue and start the scraping process from the back of your tongue (pull the scraper toward the tip of your tongue 2-3 times). Be sure to rinse the scraper with warm water during the process.
- Do not apply excessive pressure since scraping your tongue can cause injuries and bleeding.
- Rinse your mouth with water to remove the debris.
- Rinse and clean the tongue scraper after each session.
Are Tongue Scrapers the Most Effective Tongue Cleaning Method?
There’s no denying that both a toothbrush and a tongue scraper can remove the bacteria dwelling in your tongue. But which of the two techniques benefits overall oral health the most?
The research has taken the side of tongue scrapers. A 2004 clinical trial published in the Journal of Periodontology concluded that, even though both methods resolve the issue of tongue coating, tongue scraping removes 30% more volatile sulfur compounds (i.e., the culprits causing bad breath). So, both tongue scraping and brushing will get the job done, but the former is better at keeping your breath fresh.
How Often Should I Use Tongue Scrapers?
Bacteria will not sit idle until your next tongue-cleaning session. That is why you must implement a carefully-planned oral health regimen if you want to benefit from all the tongue-scraping benefits. If your schedule is too hectic for a tongue-cleaning plan, use a scraper at least after each brush — more than enough to keep your mouth healthy and bad breath away!
Using an Antiseptic Mouthwash
Regardless of how you choose to clean your tongue, adding a mouth rinse to your oral care regimen will help you see even better-tongue-cleaning results. Mouthwash contains numerous active ingredients that will manage the bacteria left uncaught by brushing or scraping. Be sure to use a mouth rinse after you’re done brushing your teeth and tongue (two times per day will generally suffice).
Start Your Orthodontic Journey at Loudoun Orthodontics!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics for a free consultation if you think you are a candidate for orthodontic treatment! Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of braces or have questions about the treatment process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303. You can also send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today. Our dental practice, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly services not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for exceptional dental care, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, as well as follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!