Have you noticed that you often deal with bad breath even though you’re brushing and flossing diligently each day? If you’re simply brushing and flossing, you’re doing the health of your mouth a disservice if you’re forgetting about all the bacteria that live on your tongue. In many cases, bad breath is actually coming from the bacteria on your tongue. A healthy, clean tongue is critical for a healthy mouth and teeth, and here’s a closer look at why you need to stop overlooking the health of your tongue.
The Importance of Your Tongue
Although the tongue isn’t very big, it’s an important part of your mouth. In fact, it’s what makes it possible for you to articulate speech and eat without choking. Although you use it constantly, you probably don’t give it a lot of thought.
The tongue is a group of muscles, and each group of muscles has a different job. The tip of your tongue can move fast, helping you create specific speech sounds and making it possible to ensure food moves from the front of your mouth to the back.
Some of the other muscle groups of the tongue move the tongue side-to-side and up-and-down. Others change the tongues shape, and muscles in the back of your tongue allow you to articulate certain speech sounds. These muscles also help you move food into your throat in small amounts so you don’t end up choking.
Your Tongue and Bacteria
Although the tongue isn’t at risk for developing cavities, the tongue is a big target for oral bacteria. Between tongue structures like the taste buds, bacteria can accumulate quickly. Your tongue isn’t smooth. It has many elevations and crevices, and bacteria can easily hide in these areas.
It’s not just saliva building up on your tongue – it’s actually biofilm. Biofilm is a group of microorganisms that can stick together, and this builds up on the surface of your tongue. Just rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash won’t get rid of it. That bacteria that’s being harbored on your tongue can result in bad breath and even lead to tooth damage. This means it’s crucial to make sure you’re removing the bacteria on the tongue by cleaning it.
How Often Should You Clean Your Tongue?
It’s a good idea to make sure you clean your tongue every time you’re brushing your teeth. Bacteria starts building back up on your tongue soon after it’s cleaned, so just like routine brushing and flossing, it’s important to keep cleaning your tongue.
Tips for Cleaning Your Tongue
How do you clean your tongue? You actually have several options, including:
Using a Tongue Brush – Tongue brushes have bristles that are designed to clean your tongue. Start at the back of the tongue, working your way forward as you clean. Rinse the brush thoroughly when you’re done.
Scraping Your Tongue – A tongue scraper is generally made out of flexible, soft plastic or metal. It helps peel away that layer of biofilm on your tongue. Start scraping from the back of your tongue towards the front. After every scrape of your tongue, rinse it thoroughly.
A Toothbrush in a Pinch – In a pinch, your toothbrush can help you clean your tongue, although it’s specifically designed for your teeth.
Rinse Well – No matter how you clean your tongue, be sure to rinse well with water or mouthwash when you’re done.
Cleaning your tongue twice daily when you brush your teeth will not only help you combat bad breath, but it will also improve your oral health. In most cases, taking better care of your tongue’s health will eliminate halitosis. However, if it continues to be a problem, it’s a good idea to see a dentist. Bad breath may also be caused by infections in the mouth, tooth decay, and other health problems, so discuss the issue with your dentist.