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It’s well known that if you want to get rid of bad breath, you want to brush or clean your tongue. But how much of this is really true? Are there better methods/tools for keeping your tongue clean?
The answers to both of these questions are yes. It is true that cleaning your tongue will improve your bad breath. And there are specialized tools widely available to keep your breath fresh and clean.
Le’ts take a look at why you should clean your tongue, how to clean your tongue, and what tools are available to clean your tongue.
Why You Should Clean Your Tongue
There are many reasons to clean your tongue. The following is a list highlighting few of these reasons. I will cover two of them in depth:
- Reduces bad breath: This is one of the biggest reasons by far to keep your tongue healthy and clean. Cleaning your tongue will most likely reduce or eliminate breath problems.
- Reduces plaque build up: Bacteria that cause plaque build up can live on the tongue. These can get re-applied to the teeth, resulting in continued build up.
- More pleasing appearance: A slimy green tongue is just plain unattractive. It could even be a turnoff for some.
If you want a truly healthy mouth, brushing and flossing isn’t enough. The tongue can’t be neglected in your dental health regimen. How does cleaning your tongue get rid of things like bad breath and plaque?
The Origins of Bad Breath
Where does bad breath come from? Besides the usual suspects of onions, garlic and smoking, the main source of bad breath is bacteria in the mouth. This is why you wake up in the morning with morning breath!
These bacteria primarily reside on the tongue. Dental health scientists have only recently discovered one specific cause of bad breath. Bacteria living on the tongue give off “volatile sulfur compounds.” These bacteria are responsible for up to 95% of bad breath.
More specifically, these beasties seem to congregate on the very back of the tongue where it is hardest to brush. Proper tongue cleaning techniques which utilize tools besides brushes are key here. More on that later.
This is one of the main reasons for why you should clean your tongue. It’s the home base for all the nasty smelling germs which are the cause for your dragon breath.
In addition, these bacteria can get re-deposited back onto your teeth. The result? An increase in tartar and plaque build up.
Reducing Plaque and Bacteria
Not surprisingly, that nasty looking layer of gunk on your tongue is a whole lot of bacteria. More specifically, it’s a layer of germs called a “biofilm.”
A biofilm is, more or less, a really tightly packed group of bacteria that is hard to get rid of. What makes the biofilm particularly difficult to remove is the texture of the tongue. It’s covered in bumps, ridges and taste buds.
All of these bacteria seek refuge and hide in these nooks and crannies. This is why simply rinsing out your mouth is not enough. You have to apply effort to physically remove the bacteria from the tongue.
Now that you know where the nasty germs hide, you will need to know the best way to get rid of them. There are two easy ways to get rid of the bacteria: Brushing and scraping.
Brushing Your Tongue
Brushing your tongue is easy as it requires no other tools other than the trusty toothbrush. All you have to do is make brushing your tongue a separate activity after your regular tooth brushing.
- Rise the toothpaste off of your brush
- Start from the back of the tongue–this is where most of the bad breath-causing beasties live–and work your ways forwards
- Brush gently from front to back
- After covering the whole surface of the tongue, repeat step 2 but moving from side to side
- Rinse out your mouth
- Run the toothbrush under warm water
It’s that simple! You will find that this method should reduce the buildup of biofilm on your tongue. The result will be a healthier smile and fresh breath. But maybe you want to really work the bacteria off the tongue.
Why Brushing Might Not Be Enough
Ok, bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue. So, why not just brush your tongue? Why would you even need a tongue scraper in the first place?
While brushing your teeth will definitely improve your breath, it is less effective at removing the bacteria that live on the tongue. One study comparing both tongue scrapers and just brushing the tongue found that tongue scrapers were almost twice as effective at cleaning the tongue than a regular toothbrush.
The surface of the tongue is a lot more textured than teeth. There are more places for bacteria to cling to. Therefore, a more solid tool than a soft bristle brush is needed.
If you want to be thorough in removing bacteria, tongue scrapers are the way to go. Tongue scrapers employ the force of a hard edge to scrape all the gunk from the crevices on your tongue.
A few studies have yielded positive results on the effectiveness of tongue scrapers in removing bacteria. A single study looked at sixty male participants with poor habits. Some of them were chronic smokers, others were heavy coffee drinkers. The scientists did not change their habits except for the inclusion of tongue scrapers into their daily brushing times. The study found a significant reduction in both bacteria living on the tongue and bad odors.
The takeaway? Tongue scrapers can make an effective addition to any oral health regimen. They are probably more effective than simply brushing your tongue.
Tongue scrapers come in a variety of shapes and materials. They are either plastic or metal. Some are simple v-shaped wires while others have plastic handles.
Use a tongue scraper the same way you would brush your tongue. Start from the back and work your way forwards.
How to Clean Your Tongue Wrap Up
If you want as fresh of breath as possible, keeping your tongue clean is a priority. The bacteria–the biofilm–covering your tongue is the primary cause of bad breath. Eliminating these nasty germs will cure your dragon’s breath.
A simple rinse is not enough to do the job. Either brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper will suffice. Brushing your tongue is simpler but a tongue scraper is more thorough.
Choose either method and you will end up with fresher breath. As an added bonus, you will reduce the amount of plaque and tartar on your teeth as well.
The tongue is just as important to care for as the other parts of the mouth. A simple addition to your daily routine will go a long way to help make you healthier.