You brush and floss regularly, but you leave a source of bacteria in your mouth if you don't include your tongue. An effective dental hygiene practice can only happen when you brush your tongue, too. Here is why your tongue can work against you and how to make it part of your daily routine.
Bacteria and Your Tongue
One of the primary uses of the tongue is to move food around the mouth and down the esophagus. This also pushes food particles into the folds and crevices in the tongue. The tongue is covered with a number of small bumps which contain the taste buds, and also serve to grip the food in your mouth. Bacteria feed on the food particles and stay on your tongue unless your remove them. Brushing and flossing your teeth leaves these bacteria in your mouth where they can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
Getting Rid of Bacteria on Your Tongue
Along with brushing and flossing your teeth, removing bacteria from the tongue completes a healthy dental hygiene routine. The two approaches to this are brushing and scraping. Both are effective and you'll need to try each technique to see which one works consistently for you.
Brushing the tongue - At the end of brushing your teeth, run the brush over your tongue several times. Brush as far back on your tongue as you can and along both sides. You don't need to brush along the smooth surface underneath the tongue. Few bacteria take up residence there. Some people don't tolerate brushing their tongue because of their gag reflex. If this is the case with you, then try scraping your tongue.
Scraping the tongue - A special tool with a flat edge is used to scrape the tongue. Ask the dentist or hygienist at your family dentistry clinic for their recommended tongue scrapers. To use this tool, place it as far back on your tongue as possible and draw it forward, pushing lightly as you move the scraper. Rinse the material out of your mouth and repeat several times. If your tongue is discolored or has a film on it, don't try to scrape it off. It will wear off naturally throughout the day.
As long as you ignore your tongue in your dental hygiene habits, you leave bacteria in your mouth that cause dental disease. Add cleaning your tongue to your brushing and flossing routine to further reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
For more information, contact Sarah M. LYNCH DMD or a similar dental professional.