You’re Not Done With Your Teeth Until You Brush Your Tongue

You may do a good job brushing and flossing every day, maybe even twice a day. But you may not know that cleaning your tongue is another part of dental hygiene that you shouldn't forget. Your tongue captures all kinds of bacteria that can damage your teeth and cause bad breath. Learn about how cleaning your tongue is another way to prevent cavities and other dental problems.

How Your Tongue Helps and Harms You

Your tongue is a tough muscle that is used when you chew food. It moves food around and mixes it with your saliva, which begins the digestion process. Bumps on the tongue, called papillae, allow your tongue to hold onto the food as it stirs it around in the mouth. While the bumps and ridges on your tongue make it more effective in digestion, it can cause dental issues.

The spaces between the bumps and ridges collect bacteria, some of which are the ones that cause tooth decay. If you clean your teeth thoroughly but forget your tongue, you leave a source of bacteria to coat your teeth again. Adding cleaning of your tongue to your dental hygiene habit reduces the chances of tooth decay and gum disease even more.

Cleaning Your Tongue

Scraping and brushing are the two ways to get your tongue clean. Try to add both techniques when you brush and floss your teeth. You may find that you can only do one, but you'll still be ahead by adding one technique to your routine.

Brushing - When you've finished brushing your teeth, use the brush on your tongue a few times. Brush as far back on the tongue as you can reach, and along the sides. You don't need to brush the bottom of your tongue. It doesn't have the bumps and ridges which trap bacteria. While this is easy to do, some people get their gag reflex triggered when brushing their tongue. That will keep you from doing a good job. In that case, try the tongue scraping technique.

Scraping - A tongue scraper is a flat plastic tool used to pull material off of the tongue. To use it, place it as far back on the tongue as you can reach. Press down gently and pull the scraper forward. Rinse your mouth out at the end and repeat several times. Your family dentist at Canyon Dental can show you different types of tongue scrapers and help you choose the best one for your mouth.  

If your tongue has a white or brown coating on it when your brush, don't try to remove the coating with the tongue scraper, or you'll damage your tongue. Brush, floss and scrape normally and the coating will fade throughout the day.

Add one or both of these tongue cleaning techniques to your dental hygiene routine. Reduce your chances of tooth and gum problems even more than with just brushing and flossing.