Many people have heard of the common practice of “brushing” your tongue. Maybe your dentist or a friend or colleague has advised you to brush your tongue before. Do you make it a part of your daily brushing routine, and should you? Let’s examine whether or not you should actually be cleaning your tongue for your oral hygiene.
If You Have Bad Breath…
The tongue can harbor plaque and bacteria just like the rest of our mouths, but since the tongue is
constantly bathed in saliva, moving against certain foods, and cleaning itself, the plaque and bacteria don’t gather on the tongue in the same way they do in the small spaces between our teeth or on the surfaces of our teeth. However, if you have bad breath, the tongue might actually be housing a lot of the bacteria that could be causing your bad breath. Many people find brushing their tongue helpful when it comes to bad breath, especially in the morning. If you find that brushing with a tooth brush makes you gag, there are certain “tongue scrapers” that you can buy. While these are not necessary for optimal oral health, you may want to consider these if you have bad breath or an unpleasant taste on your tongue from certain foods. Usually, the taste from certain foods will go away quickly as the tongue cleans itself, but for certain foods like garlic, salmon, or onions, the taste may unpleasantly linger. Bad breath can also be a sign of gum disease or tooth decay, so remember to always get routine check-ups with your dentist!
Is it Necessary?
Cleaning your tongue is not strictly necessary as long as you keep your mouth clean. This means
brushing at least once a day, flossing once a day or between meals as necessary, and visiting your
dentist. Brushing your tongue is optional. The bacteria on the tongue can spread back to the teeth and gums after brushing if the tongue is not itself brushed, but as it takes at least 24 hours for plaque to form in your mouth, you should be fine as long as you’re brushing once a day. Remember that it’s the quality of your brushing that matters over quantity—no use in brushing your teeth several times a day if you are missing the same areas every time, therefore allowing plaque to build up! Your dentist can talk with you about which areas are being missed in your mouth when brushing just by examining your teeth during your check-up.
While many people give their tongue a quick scrub, it’s not wholly necessary. If you have bad breath or frequently eat foods that feel like their taste “clings” in your mouth, you may find it helpful to brush your tongue along with your regular brushings. As always, healthy oral hygiene consists of brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist!