The first time you heard of brushing your tongue (which might be right now, in this blog!) you may have thought, “But isn’t the whole point brushing… my teeth?” Adding another step to your twice-daily toothbrushing and once-daily flossing oral hygiene routine may sound unnecessary. But tongue brushing has one primary result that you might find attractive: It fights bad breath.
Why Brush Your Tongue?
Have you ever noticed that even after brushing your teeth, sometimes your mouth retains an unpleasant taste or odor? Depending on the food you’ve eaten, how long it’s been since you last brushed, and even other factors like medications you’re on, you may have experienced this.
When this happens, some people might reach for the mouthwash or for some chewing gum. And while those can quickly freshen your breath in a pinch, if your bad breath is consistently lingering after brushing your teeth, there’s a more direct way to attack the culprit: Brush your tongue.
Your tongue is a popular spot for bacteria and food particles to hang out in your mouth. As those particles get comfortable in between your taste buds, a thin layer of mucus forms, trapping them there and sometimes even forming a visible coating. This film over the tongue is a major source of bad breath, and without brushing it off, any mint-eating that you do will only mask the problem.
This coating might be especially likely to form if you suffer from dry mouth, a side effect of a number of medications, alcohol or tobacco use, or an excess of caffeine. If your bad breath is more than occasional, you may be suffering from the chronic form of bad breath called halitosis.
How to Brush Your Tongue
If you want to add brushing your tongue to your oral hygiene routine, first it’s a good idea to make sure you’re doing well with the basics of brushing and flossing. Once you’ve done a thorough job on your teeth, it’s time to tackle the tongue.
Gently brush the top of the tongue, starting at the back and working your way forward. When you’re done, a quick rinse with water should leave your mouth feeling fresh. If you want to be a bit more thorough, there are tongue scrapers available that are designed to help peel that mucus layer off of the surface. These flexible plastic devices should be used gently — if your tongue feels sore, you’re using too much pressure.
You can brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth. And if you notice a bad taste in your mouth after lunch or otherwise in between regular tooth brushings, cleaning your tongue could actually be the most effective quick freshener!
On the other hand, if you have reservoirs of unhealthy bacteria in your mouth, either because of gum disease or an infected tooth, your tongue could be quickly colonized again, and the benefits of tongue brushing would be minimized.