Most people dutifully brush their teeth when they wake up and again before they go to bed, but far fewer take the time to brush their tongue. That's a shame since tongues need cleaning too. The surface of your tongue is covered with tiny bumps called papillae. These papillae house the taste buds that allow you to enjoy the sweet taste of an ice cream cone or the salty taste of a potato chip. But they can also harbor bacteria, food particles and dead skin cells. Yuck! That's why it's important to take a little extra time to clean your tongue at home.
How to Clean Your Tongue at Home
You do not have to have any special equipment to clean your tongue, although a tongue scraper can make the job easier. A tongue scraper is the best alternative for people who gag easily. To do a thorough tongue cleaning, you have to be able to reach the back of your tongue since there's where lots of the food debris and bacteria are hiding. A tongue scraper makes it easier to do that.
How to Use a Tongue Scraper
You can buy a tongue scraper at many drugstores and online. You can find inexpensive ones made of plastic at most drugstores, but for just a little more you can get a stainless steel one that will last longer and will be easier to clean.
Once you have a tongue scraper, you're ready to get started. Open your mouth and place the tongue scraper as far back in your mouth as you comfortably can. Press down gently and move the scraper forward, taking care not to apply too much force. Rinse the scraper with water to remove any debris. Then move to another area of the tongue and repeat the process using light pressure, taking care to rinse after each scraping. You should be able to cover your tongue with three scrapes. Once you've finished, rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water, and swish an anti-bacterial mouthwash around in your mouth.
It's important to not to be too aggressive when you scrape your tongue, since you can damage the delicate taste buds. Be gentle. You want to keep your tongue healthy so you can enjoy the taste of your food.
You Can Use a Toothbrush to Clean Your Tongue Too
If you do not have a tongue scraper, use a soft tooth brush to gently clean your tongue using light pressure. Wash the bristles in warm water after each pass. You may have to run the toothbrush over your tongue a few additional times since a toothbrush does not do the job as effectively as a tongue scraper. Once you've finished, thoroughly rinse your mouth.
Examine your tongue, and make sure it looks clean and healthy. If you notice a white coating on your tongue that persists after brushing, talk to your doctor or dentist. It could be oral thrush. Thrush is a fungal infection that can appear after taking antibiotics or if your immune system is suppressed. If you have this condition, it's important to find out why since it can be a sign of a health problem such as diabetes, an immune deficiency problem. It's also more common when you're taking certain medications such as antibiotics or prednisone.
The Bottom Line?
It's important to know how to clean your tongue at home to improve oral hygiene and prevent bad breath. Most cases of halitosis are caused by bacteria in the mouth that produce smelly substances. Brushing your tongue or scraping it with tongue scraper can help to prevent this problem. Clean your tongue thoroughly – do it for your oral health.