You don’t understand. You brush twice a day. You floss. You do everything doctors have been telling you to do since preschool. And somehow, you still have bad breath. Are you not brushing thoroughly enough? That’s one possibility, but it’s also possible that the spot you missed isn’t even on your teeth. When it comes to good oral health, many people forget about their tongue—and as your dentist can tell you, this can be a major mistake.
Obviously, your tongue is just as involved with eating as your teeth are, and as such the same bacteria that can build up on your teeth can also build up on your tongue. The bacteria, along with food particles and dead skin cells, get caught in the tiny bumps on your tongue and trapped with a layer of mucus; this can cause bad breath as well as a white discoloration.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. The bacteria trapped on your tongue can be transferred to your teeth and gums. This means that even if you brush your teeth properly, plaque and tartar buildup can still occur. To help protect against this, it’s important to give your tongue the same attention as your pearly whites.
You can use a wet toothbrush to scrub your tongue while brushing your teeth; specifically, the best time would be after you spit out excess toothpaste but before you rinse. That way both your mouth and toothbrush will still have a bit of toothpaste on them. Scrub your tongue from back to front to avoid swallowing bacteria, and make sure to scrub your cheeks and the roof of your mouth as well.
You can also get a tongue scraper from the local drug store. These are designed to gently scrape away the mucus layer in your mouth along with the trapped bacteria. Slide the scraper from back to front, and rinse between scrapes; you should clean more thoroughly after you’re done. You can do this before brushing and flossing.
Be sure not to scrub or scrape too hard; you only need to lightly hold the brush or scraper in place on your tongue. If there’s a wound or sore on your tongue, you should wait until it heals to clean it.
Your tongue should receive the same daily attention as your teeth and gums; it’s best done at the same time as regular brushing and flossing.
Your tongue is just as vital to your oral health as anything else. Be sure to speak with your dentist and ask questions about how to take care of your entire mouth. If you’ve been overlooking your tongue, it’s not too late; find the cleaning method that works for you and stick to it until it becomes as natural as brushing.
About the Author
Dr. Benjamin Naylor loves helping patients get their desired smiles. He offers a wide array of preventive dentistry services and uses innovative techniques and technologies, such as digital X-rays and intraoral cameras, along with high-quality dental materials. To ask how Dr. Naylor can help you with your oral health, contact his practice, Mountain Stream Dental, on their website or at (541) 345-5363.