Everyone knows the basics of oral hygiene – brush your teeth twice a day, floss at least once, maybe use some mouthwash occasionally. But have you ever heard about the importance of brushing your tongue?
Cleaning all parts of your mouth is essential to your oral health. And in fact, brushing your tongue when cleaning your teeth can save you from a lot of potential problems down the line. It can prevent halitosis (bad breath) and will also rid your mouth of quite a bit of bacteria.
Have you ever heard the expression “a dog’s tongue is cleaner than a person’s”? While this may not be true, both contain over 600 types of bacteria. There are many reasons why cleaning yours is necessary.
From our team here at Vellore Woods Dentistry, here is a little bit more information about brushing your tongue, why you should do it, and how it helps.
Why the Tongue Is Important
Our tongue is vital to our oral and overall health. It helps us eat, it helps us speak and articulate, and so many little things we do not really think about. Without it, we could not chew and swallow properly; we would not taste anything; we would not speak, or sing, or do much of anything. We use it constantly, but we never truly think about how much we need it.
The tongue is not one big muscle, but rather a group of muscles with each one specified for certain tasks and movements. The various muscles are what give us the ability to speak or whistle, move our food around, and swallow properly. It also prevents choking by only allowing food down our oesophagus in small, manageable amounts. Our tongues do a lot for us, but we never really give them much thought.
Why Should You Clean It?
Just like with the rest of our mouth – our teeth, our gums, etc. – bacteria can build up in and around small crevices and areas that are not smooth. Your tongue is covered in tiny bumps, like your tastebuds, called papillae, and between these bumps are crevices where bacteria, food particles, and even dead skin cells can build up.
The tongue is also covered by a thin layer of mucus, which also coats the bacteria build up. If left unchecked, you will develop bad breath and a white film over your tongue. The bacteria build-up can also spread to your teeth even after cleaning, so it is important to keep your tongue clean, too.
How to Brush Your Tongue
This is the easy part to explain. It seems self-explanatory, and in some ways it is. However, just like with brushing your teeth, there are recommended methods of doing so.
There are two common methods. The easiest is with your toothbrush. This can be done after spitting out the excess toothpaste from brushing your teeth but before rinsing so that there is still some left to use for cleaning. The best way is to brush from back to front, to best ensure you do not ingest the bacteria you are cleaning off, and side to side as well. Then, rinse your mouth as you normally would at the end of brushing your teeth.
The other common method is a tongue scraper, which you can typically find for very low prices at local drug stores. With a scraper, you should always move back of the tongue to the front and rinse it between each scrape.
Both methods remove the bacteria that gather in the small crevices of your tongue, which is why it is so important to brush. It is recommended to clean your tongue at least one of the two times you are supposed to brush your teeth. Remember, your tongue is not flat, so cleaning it is in your best interest to keep any build-up from growing.
What Could Happen If You Don’t
Just like not cleaning your teeth could lead to serious dental issues, so too can not cleaning your tongue. It can cause all kinds of damage, create bacteria build up, and eventually affect other things too, like your teeth and throat. Here are just a few things that could happen if you do not regularly clean your tongue.
Halitosis – or, as most people know it, chronic bad breath – is the most common and quickest result of not cleaning your tongue and mouth properly. When your tongue and mouth are not properly cleaned, bacteria build up, along with small food particles and even dead skin cells. As this all collects and accumulates, the bacterial spike will result in an awful smell.
It is important to note that many experts indicate that much of this bacterial growth is at the back of the tongue, so it is especially imperative to brush as far back as you can, to be safe.
2. Bacterial Build-Up
Like we have already said, bacteria will grow and develop if left unchecked. In the beginning, it may even create a white film over your tongue as it fills in the crevices and spaces between papillae. First will come the bad breath, then the bacteria will spread to your teeth, too.
Once it spreads, it will create plaque and tartar build up on your teeth, leading to even worse problems down the line – cavities, root canals, etc.
3. Black, Hairy Tongue
You read that right. If you did not brush your tongue for an extended amount of time, your tongue would begin to appear black and dirty, and the build-up will both look and feel quite fuzzy. It will appear as though your tongue has sprouted hair. This is because dark foods and liquids will stain the tastebuds and the bacteria. It is quite easy to clean, though.
Cleaning your tongue is a simple task to add to your list to keep your mouth in top shape, and it can do wonders for your oral health. Start brushing or scraping your tongue today and notice exactly how much better you feel.