You may have heard that when you brush your teeth, you should take a few seconds to brush the surface of your tongue as well. This isn’t just an old wives’ tale or an optional extra step—tongue brushing is in fact crucial to good oral hygiene. Here’s why.
Your tongue is part of the entire “ecosystem” of your mouth, and it can harbor bacteria just the same as your teeth and gums can. But it goes even deeper than that.
Why Tongue Brushing Is Key to Your Oral Health
Your tongue is a muscle—or rather, a collection of muscles—that are wrapped in pink tissue and small bumps, known as mucosa and papillae, respectively. The papillae are where your taste buds are located and are what give your tongue its bumpy texture.
Those bumps are perfect little nooks for dead skin cells, food residue, bacteria, and other debris to collect in. Cleaning them out requires dedicated brushing and scraping. Without this kind of targeted cleaning, your tongue hangs on to these unwelcome elements and spreads them throughout your mouth. This can lead to various oral health problems, such as bad breath, yeast overgrowth, and periodontal disease which may require root canal treatments. It can even cause your taste buds to become less sensitive, since they’re covered in a biofilm that blocks them from fully tasting your food. In severe cases, you can develop a condition where your tongue becomes black and hairy-looking.
How to Brush Your Tongue Properly
It’s simple to include tongue brushing in your daily oral care. Just spend a few moments after you’ve brushed your teeth running your toothbrush over your tongue. Move from front to back and from side to side to cover the whole surface area. Don’t brush so hard, though, that you cause irritation. You can buy a dedicated tongue scraper that’s designed specifically for this purpose.
As always, good oral hygiene is the first step to a healthy smile. The next is making sure to visit your dentist on a regular basis for a professional cleaning and checkup.