You Brush Your Teeth, But What About Your Tongue?
Your oral health plays a direct role in your overall physical health. While most people focus on caring for the teeth and gums, your tongue shouldn't be neglected, either. In fact, brushing your tongue has been shown to be incredibly important for a number of reasons. Below, you'll learn why your dentist tell you your tongue needs attention and how you can best keep it clean each and every day.
What Role Does the Tongue Play in Oral Health?
The tongue plays a very important role in your overall oral health. In fact, when the mouth is unhealthy, the tongue will reflect the issue by looking red, swollen, dried-out or even textured. An excellent example of this is oral thrush, a yeast overgrowth in the mouth. When it occurs, the tongue becomes extremely painful and develops white, raised sections.
The tongue itself also houses thousands of nerves, taste buds and glands that help you properly wash away food debris. When it's not working correctly, particles will hang around the mouth longer, where you lose their nutritional benefit. Food debris is also a major cause of the development of cavities and an attractant for bacteria.
This makes brushing really important, if for no other reason than to help keep it clear of debris.
Removing Bacteria From the Mouth Helps, Too
As a segue from the previous question, debris isn't the only thing that needs to be removed from your tongue when you brush. Bacterium also accumulates and should be brushed away.
It's not the bacteria itself that smells, it's the chemicals and metabolites they release.
According to this article, "The dominant bacterial species in dental plaque are Streptococcus sanguis and Streptococcus mutans." Both of these are found in oral plaque as well as on the tongue. An overgrowth of the first will make your breath smell fishy, while an overgrowth of the second will make your breath smell pungent and strong.
Both can also speed up tooth decay, which can cause bad breath all on its own.
While plaque typically collects on the gum line and in or around the teeth, and not on the tongue itself, having bacteria on the tongue means it can more easily spread to problem areas. This is where most people fail; they thoroughly brush the teeth, gums and gum line, but neglect the tongue.
About 30 minutes later, any bacteria left on the tongue simply migrates back to the teeth. Plaque develops, and this time it's insidious because you think you're doing everything right.
How to Brush Your Tongue Properly
Now that you've heard a convincing argument for tongue brushing, it's time that you learned how you can do it properly. At its most basic, you can just grab your toothbrush and a bit of cold water and gently scrub in straight lines from the back to the front of your mouth.
But this is far from the most effective way for you to get the job done!
Use a Tongue Scraper and Scrubber
For the best possible cleaning, you should seek out and use a tongue scraper and scrubber. If you've ever purchased a new toothbrush and found that its head has a small, rounded rubber spot on the back, you've seen a scrubber.
To Use The Scrubber
To use the scrubber itself, just rub it in slow circles all over your tongue. Be sure to rinse and spit afterward to clear the mouth of loosened debris and bacteria.
To Use The Scraper
The next step up is to use a tongue scraper. They do look a little bit odd--almost like a toothbrush handle with a small triangle shape on the end. You'll find them in the tooth care aisle at any drugstore.
A scraper will apply firm pressure to the surface of the tongue, forcibly evicting anything that might have been hanging around.
While they're really effective, some people find them too abrasive. Because of this, it's best to just start by moving the scraper around in your mouth to test it out. Graduate to gently running it over the tongue from the front to the back, rinsing each time.
For added bonus, use a little bit of toothpaste on the tongue, too.
Taking care of your teeth is important for so many reasons. Your permanent adult teeth are the only natural teeth you'll ever have, so it makes sense to do everything you can to keep them in great shape. For questions about oral hygiene, contact your dentist today.