closeup of a tongue cleaning tool on a woman's tongue

Importance Of Cleaning Your Tongue In Oral Hygiene

closeup of a tongue cleaning tool on a woman's tongue

According to the National Library of Medicine, more than 700 species of bacteria live in the mouth. Most are harmless, but others can lead to tooth decay and disease. Most people tend to focus on brushing and flossing as the cornerstones of dental health. But it’s also important to clean your tongue.

Hi, it’s Dr. Joseph and I’m here to talk about tongues. Learn the characteristics of a healthy tongue, the diseases that can occur due to neglect, and what you can do to ensure proper care.

Characteristics of a healthy tongue

Your tongue is important to both good dental health as well as proper digestion. As a general rule, your tongue is pink with your taste buds appearing as small dots. The surface is moist and your tongue should be able to make free movements. 

A  change in your tongue’s color can be a temporary condition, such as an allergic reaction to food or eating something very spicy. But a significant change can indicate possible disease or infection.  A red tongue may indicate a fever while a pale pink tongue could indicate a vitamin deficiency.

If you notice a considerable change in your tongue’s color, shape, mobility or size, consult your dentist or doctor. It could be an oral health problem or an indication of disease.

Diseases caused by poor hygiene of the tongue

It’s easy to overlook your tongue when you’re brushing and flossing. But poor tongue hygiene can cause a wide range of dental issues. 

Halitosis: One of the main problems associated with poor tongue hygiene is bad breath, also know as halitosis. This is because bacteria begin to accumulate and multiply in your tongue, creating an unpleasant smell. This usually comes from the back of the tongue because this is where bacteria like to hang out. While unpleasant and sometimes embarrassing, bad breath can be addressed with proper care.

Black Tongue: It’s one of the most common tongue diseases. It occurs when taste buds are stained because of dark pigmentation in foods like coffee. In addition, the taste buds lengthen,  which gives them a hairy appearance and cause the tongue to darken. But don’t worry, it sounds scarier than it is. With good oral hygiene habits, you can easily eliminate it.

Periodontal Diseases: If tongue bacteria are allowed to accumulate, they can spread to other areas of the mouth like your teeth and gums. If left unchecked, bacteria cause gingivitis and even serious periodontal diseases. 

White Spots on the tongue: When bacteria start to get out of control, fungal infections can also develop. These produce white spots on the tongue and sometimes in other areas of the mouth.

What’s the best way to clean your tongue?

Brush Your Tongue Regularly

Put that toothbrush to work! Gently clean your tongue’s surface by beginning at the back and working your way forward, applying light pressure to avoid irritation. Some toothbrushes have a textured or soft rubber bristles on the backside of the bristle head specifically for using on your tongue.

Tongue Cleaning Tools

Consider a tongue scraper, a soft and flexible plastic tool, designed specifically to remove any film on your tongue. You may be surprised to learn there are several other tongue-specific tools on the market including brushes, cleaners with bristles, copper tongue cleaners, tongue gels, and tongue scraping sprays. When choosing a tool, it really only matters what you think of the comfort and ease of use. The key is in using something consistently to clean your tongue every time you brush and floss.

Toothpaste Assistance

While not necessary, applying a small amount of toothpaste can aid in the cleaning process. It not only helps remove bacteria but can also give you a smoother glide over your tongue’s surface.

Don’t Forget the Underside

Bacteria clings to the underside of the tongue, too, so don’t forget to brush there as well.

Antiseptic or Antibacterial Mouthwash

Incorporating mouthwash into your routine helps your tongue, too! There are several popular over-the-counter brands including Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouthwash, Colgate Peroxyl Antiseptic Mouthwash, Crest Pro-Health Intense Clean, Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield, and CloSYS Sensitive Antimicrobial Mouthwash. Look for the ADA Seal of Approval and pick what you like best. Again, if you don’t like it, you’re not likely to include it in your oral healthcare routine.

When you think of good oral health, you usually think of brushing your teeth and flossing, but each part of the mouth plays an important role. Including your tongue in your oral healthcare routine will help you maintain fresh breath and also contribute to the overall health of your mouth.

Examining your tongue is just part of the comprehensive exam you’ll receive here at Odyssey Dental. If you’re concerned about halitosis, or any other dental issue, we’re here to help! To make an appointment, use the button below, our contact form, or give us a call at 336-560-3636.

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Odyssey Dental of Summerfield
7506 Summerfield Road
Summerfield, NC 27358