Should You Brush Your Tongue?

woman sticking out her tongue

When it comes to maintaining good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth and flossing are common practices. However, one crucial aspect often overlooked is cleaning the tongue. The tongue plays a significant role in our oral health and overall well-being. In this blog, we will delve into the importance of tongue cleaning, explore different types of tongue cleaners, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to effectively clean your tongue.

The Tongue and Your Oral Health:

The tongue is a muscular organ located in the oral cavity. It plays a crucial role in various functions, including speech, swallowing, and taste perception. The tongue is covered with papillae, which are small bumps containing taste buds that enable us to experience different flavors.

The tongue’s impact on oral health is significant. It can both positively and negatively affect the overall well-being of the mouth. Here are a few ways the tongue influences oral health:

  • Bacterial Accumulation: The rough surface of the tongue provides an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. These bacteria can multiply and form a biofilm, or plaque, on the tongue’s surface. This accumulation of bacteria can lead to various oral health problems, including bad breath (halitosis), tooth decay, and gum disease.
  • Bad Breath: The bacteria on the tongue produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are responsible for causing bad breath. If the tongue is not cleaned regularly, the buildup of bacteria and debris can result in persistent bad breath.
  • Taste Perception: The tongue’s taste buds allow us to discern different flavors. However, when the tongue is coated with bacteria, debris, or a layer of dead cells, it can hinder our ability to fully taste and enjoy food and beverages.
  • Oral Infections: The tongue’s surface can become a reservoir for harmful bacteria, which can potentially cause oral infections. These infections may manifest as glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), oral thrush (a fungal infection), or other bacterial infections.
  • Gum Disease: Bacteria present on the tongue can migrate to the gum tissue, contributing to gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can cause inflammation, gum recession, and even tooth loss if left untreated.

To maintain optimal oral health, it is essential to pay attention to tongue hygiene. Regular tongue cleaning helps remove bacteria, food particles, debris, and dead cells from the tongue’s surface. By keeping the tongue clean, you can minimize the risk of bad breath, improve taste perception, and reduce the likelihood of developing oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Incorporating tongue cleaning into your daily oral hygiene routine, along with brushing your teeth and flossing, can promote a healthy oral environment and contribute to fresher breath and an overall healthier mouth.

The Importance of Tongue Cleaning:

The tongue’s rough surface is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which can accumulate and lead to oral health issues. Regular tongue cleaning offers a range of benefits, including:

  • Eliminating Bacteria: Bacteria on the tongue can cause bad breath (halitosis) and contribute to oral infections and gum disease. Cleaning the tongue helps remove bacteria and reduces the risk of these problems.
  • Fresher Breath: The bacteria and debris that accumulate on the tongue can be a major source of bad breath. By cleaning the tongue, you can significantly improve your breath freshness.
  • Enhancing Taste Perception: A clean tongue allows your taste buds to function optimally, enhancing your ability to enjoy the flavors of food and beverages.

Types of Tongue Cleaners:

Several types of tongue cleaners are available on the market. Here are some commonly used ones:

  • Tongue Scrapers: Tongue scrapers are simple tools specifically designed to clean the surface of the tongue. They are usually made of plastic or metal and come in various shapes and sizes. Tongue scrapers have a slightly curved shape to match the contours of the tongue and typically feature a flat surface with ridges or a smooth edge. These ridges or edges help remove bacteria, debris, and dead cells from the tongue’s surface. Tongue scrapers are widely available and considered effective for tongue cleaning.
  • Toothbrushes with Tongue-Cleaning Feature: Many toothbrushes now come with a built-in tongue cleaner on the back of the brush head. These toothbrushes have specially designed bristles or ridges on the backside, intended for tongue cleaning. Using the toothbrush’s tongue-cleaning feature, you can brush your teeth and clean your tongue simultaneously, making it convenient and efficient. This option is suitable for individuals who prefer an all-in-one solution.
  • Tongue Brushes: Tongue brushes resemble regular toothbrushes but are designed specifically for tongue cleaning. They have softer bristles and a smaller head compared to toothbrushes for better maneuverability on the tongue’s surface. Tongue brushes allow for gentle yet effective cleaning and are suitable for those who prefer a brush-like tool for tongue hygiene.
  • Copper Tongue Cleaners: Copper tongue cleaners have gained popularity in recent years. They are made of pure copper and have a curved shape for easy use. Copper is believed to possess antimicrobial properties, which can help in reducing bacteria on the tongue’s surface. Copper tongue cleaners are available as flat strips or U-shaped tools and are favored by individuals who prefer natural or traditional approaches to oral hygiene.

It’s important to choose a tongue cleaner that suits your preference and comfort level. Whether it’s a tongue scraper, toothbrush with a tongue-cleaning feature, tongue brush, or copper tongue cleaner, the primary goal is to effectively clean the tongue’s surface and remove bacteria, debris, and other accumulations. Experiment with different types to find the one that works best for you and encourages consistent tongue cleaning as part of your oral hygiene routine.

How to Clean Your Tongue:

Follow these steps to effectively clean your tongue:

  1. Choose a Tongue Cleaner: Select a tongue scraper, toothbrush with a tongue-cleaning feature, or any other preferred tongue cleaning tool.
  2. Prepare Your Mouth: Rinse your mouth with water to remove loose debris.
  3. Position the Tool: If using a tongue scraper or toothbrush, place the tool at the back of your tongue.
  4. Gentle Scrubbing: With light pressure, move the scraper or brush forward along the surface of your tongue. Use back-to-front strokes to remove bacteria, debris, and dead cells. Repeat this process until you have covered the entire surface.
  5. Rinse Your Mouth: Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water to remove any residue or debris. Swish the water around your mouth and spit it out.
  6. Clean and Store Your Tool: Rinse the tongue cleaner or toothbrush thoroughly with water to remove any remaining bacteria or toothpaste. Allow it to air dry or store it in a clean, dry place.
  7. Incorporate Tongue Cleaning into Your Routine: Make tongue cleaning a daily habit, ideally performed in the morning and before bedtime. It should be an integral part of your oral hygiene routine, along with brushing your teeth and flossing.

In Conclusion:

Tongue cleaning is a vital aspect of maintaining optimal oral hygiene and fresh breath. By regularly cleaning your tongue, you can eliminate bacteria, prevent bad breath, and enhance your taste perception. Choose a suitable tongue cleaner, follow the recommended techniques, and incorporate tongue cleaning into your daily routine for a healthier mouth and a confident smile. Give your tongue the attention it deserves, and reap the benefits of a clean and revitalized mouth. 

Dr. Sisko

Dr. Gerald Sisko graduated from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1987. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, and the Akron Dental Society where he is currently holding a council position. He has had the honor and distinction of being awarded “TOP DENTIST” in Akron and Cleveland as well as Northeast Ohio for the last several consecutive years.


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