Why Cleaning Your Tongue is an Essential Part of Oral Hygiene

Is brushing your teeth enough to ensure that your oral health is intact? Well, you wouldn’t be the only one to think so; most people brush twice a day and floss regularly, but they tend to ignore a part of the mouth that is highly prone to bacteria – the tongue. The back of your tongue is home to the highest number of microorganisms in your mouth, and they can contribute to a wide range of oral issues, including gum disease, dental decay, and halitosis (bad breath.) These problems are much more common than one might assume; 90% of the population face dental or oral problems at some point in their lives.

By all means, enjoy that refreshing cup of coffee every morning, but also keep in mind that your tongue is affected by anything that you consume. Bacteria accumulate in the regions of the tongue that lie between the taste buds and other tongue structures. Therefore, it is really important to ensure you inculcate the discipline of cleaning your tongue as a vital part of the oral cleansing process.

Why Cleaning Your Tongue is Monumentally Important

A study conducted in Japan, appearing in the January 2014 issue of BMC Oral Health, showed that participants in the research who cleaned their tongues daily for a prolonged period had much less bacteria in their mouths than those who did not make it a practice. Brushing your teeth alone does not, unfortunately, get rid of all the bacteria. Brushing or scraping protects your mouth against odors and also eliminates the possibility of accumulated food particles causing bad breath.

Moreover, regular tongue cleaning helps in keeping the taste buds healthy, thereby making your meals more enjoyable. Trapped food debris is one of the main factors in the coating of taste buds over time, largely reducing the intensity of flavors. A visible white coating may even develop on the tongue if bacteria are allowed to accumulate over a long period.

Remember, Tongues Can Get Cancer

Too often, oral cancers go unnoticed in their early stages. Therefore, it is critical for you to inspect your tongue on a regular basis. Check the bottom and top, as well as the sides, for any changes, patches, or cuts, and keep track of how long they are visible.

Your dentist will examine your tongue during your routine appointments, and this should be a regular occurrence if you’re over 40. In India, a large-scale dental research study showed that when several thousand people were checked for oral cancer regularly over a certain period, the death rate reduced drastically.

The Tongue-Cleaning Process

Making tongue-cleaning an integral part of your dental care is a matter of adding a few seconds to your daily routine. Start with the back of your tongue, applying gentle but steady pressure in both directions. Adding a bit of taste helps the brush move easily across the tongue. Don’t miss the underside – bacteria can easily lodge themselves there as well.

While it’s absolutely fine to use your regular toothbrush and toothpaste to clean your tongue, studies have shown that tongue cleansers are nearly ten times more effective in eliminating bacteria, especially the ones associated with halitosis. It can be tricky though, and it has to be done consciously. There are several crevices and elevations on the tongue – the bacteria will lodge themselves in these areas unless removed carefully.

After a proper round of brushing and scraping, it is essential to rinse your mouth to ensure that all particles, including that of the paste, are washed off. A little mouthwash may also help; anti-bacterial ones can get rid of any remaining bacteria that may not have been killed in the cleaning process.

Benefits of a Clean Tongue

  • Better Mealtime
    As we saw earlier, tongue cleaning can play a vital role in keeping your tastebuds intact. It can free them up to absorb flavors with the intensity required to truly savor every bite of the meal.
  • Better Breath
    Bad breath is caused by a number of underlying issues, but one of them is most certainly accumulated bacteria in the tongue. Sometimes, however, all it takes to get rid of the issue altogether is cleansing parts of the tongue that were previously left unnoticed.
  • Healthier Teeth
    Your teeth are in continual contact with your tongue. Anything that is lodged in the latter can easily become a major dental issue. Bacteria that are allowed to linger on the tongue are often the cause of tooth decay as well as gum diseases. Therefore, when it is cleaned, your teeth are also benefiting in the process!

Make it a Habit

You should inspect and clean your tongue once a day. Allow it to become an essential part of your oral hygiene care. Scrape your tongue properly but gently – you don’t want to face the adverse effects of excessive scraping either! Remember, don’t expect changes overnight; tongue cleansing is a discipline that works over time.

Pay regular visits to your dentist for hygiene checkups – he may guide you with tips and tools to improve the tongue cleaning process.

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