Clean Your Tongue!

Boy sticking out tongue
Cleaning your tongue is actually a great way to keep your mouth healthy.

The tongue is one of the most important parts of our bodies when it comes to eating and speaking.  It also helps us enjoy our foods and make funny faces.  Here’s what you need to know about taking care of your tongue!

Why You Should Clean Your Tongue

The tongue is covered in tiny bumps called papillae.  These papillae contain our taste buds and help us feel things like the texture and temperature of foods.  Because the tongue is bumpy in texture, it has hundreds of tiny hiding spots for plaque and tiny food particles to collect.  These collections can lead to irritation of the tongue and some serious bad breath!

To keep your tongue healthy, it is important to keep it clean.

How You Should Clean Your Tongue

Woman using a tongue scraper in mirror
A tongue cleaner with soft, rubber bristles is a good option for cleaning your tongue.

There are a few different methods of cleaning the tongue, and depending on the unique shape and texture of yours, you may need to try one or more before you find the best for you.

  1. Gentle Brushing – Using a very soft toothbrush, you can gently brush the surface of your tongue, reaching as far back as you can. The larger “bumps”, called circumvallate papillae, are almost at the opening of the throat, so be careful that you do not gag yourself.  Only a gentle sweeping motion is necessary to remove any debris caught there.
  2. Mouthwash – By using an alcohol-free mouthwash regularly, you can flush out plaque and food debris from the tiny grooves on the tongue. If you are able, you can also gargle to get the mouthwash back to the throat area.  It is best to gargle something very mild, like warm salt water.
  3. Tongue Cleaner – Notice we did not use the words “tongue scraper”. That’s because you should never scrape your tongue.  There are some wonderful, flexible, soft rubber tongue cleaners on the market today.  They function to gently remove any deep-seated debris from the pits and grooves on the tongue.  Use it no more than once a day.

How You Should NOT Clean Your Tongue

Do not ever use a hard-bristled toothbrush or rigid tongue “scraper” on your tongue.  The soft tissue of the tongue is too delicate for any hard or rigid material.  In being too aggressive, some people have actually scraped papillae off the tongue!

Do not use toothpaste on the tongue.  The ingredients in toothpaste have specific actions for the teeth and gums, but they serve no benefit to the tongue.  Some of them may be harsh and cause irritation.

More Questions about Your Tongue?

Call today to schedule an evaluation with one of our dentists.  We can assess your tongue to determine the best method of cleaning and answer any questions you have.