Unless you’re a dentist, you probably don’t think much about your tongue. But the fact is tongues are some of the most neglected areas when it comes to dental hygiene. Just as you brush your teeth twice a day and hopefully floss at least once, you really should brush your tongue at least once per day. It is essential to great dental care and healthy teeth.
Your Tongue is a Bacteria Hive
The tongue is dark, moist and warm — an ideal incubation center for germs. The same bacteria that feast on foods stuck to your teeth and gums are also on your tongue. Bacteria accumulate in between taste buds and other structures. Cheers! There are billions of bacteria having a little party in your mouth as you read this. Some of the bacteria are healthy and beneficial. Others cause cavities and gum disease.
Stand in the mirror and take a look at your tongue. Notice the patchy areas of white, gray, red or brown? That’s actually a living biofilm, made of microorganisms, including cavity causing bacteria. It must be physically removed by brushing your tongue.
This bacteria feasts on foods in your mouth and then excretes an acid that causes teeth and gum disease. Those germs are literally going to the bathroom in your mouth! Gross right? We know. There are some things your dentist tells you that you don’t really want to know.
Brushing Your Tongue Will Improve Your Breath
In fact, the bacteria on your tongue are one of the reasons your breath stinks. (It’s nothing personal — everyone’s breath stinks sometimes. But practicing good dental hygiene, seeing a dentist, and brushing your tongue will help it smell better.) When you brush your tongue, you remove layers of stinky bacteria that cause bad breath.
Brushing Your Tongue Reduces Risk of Gum Disease & Cavities
Bacteria build up on your tongue can lead to gum disease and cavities. When you reduce the bacteria on your tongue, you dramatically lower your risk for gum disease and cavities. Your mouth will literally be cleaner and you’ll have better dental health. That’s why most dentists will tell you to brush your tongue.
Food Will Taste Better. A Lot Better.
All that bacteria covering your tongue is also blocking your taste buds. When you brush your tongue and remove the bacteria, you open up your taste buds to experience flavors in a completely new way. Flavors will be richer and more pronounced. Try it and see!
Brushing Your Tongue Reduces Risk of Oral Thrush
When you brush your tongue, you reduce your risk of oral thrush — an infection caused most commonly by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth. It shows up in white patches caused by excessive bacteria. It requires antifungal medication to cure it, but regularly brushing your tongue will keep it from returning.
How to Brush Your Tongue
Your tongue is actually a rough surface full of peaks and troughs where bacteria settle in and thrive. Brush the front and back of your tongue with a tooth brush and a small amount of toothpaste. Scrub from side to side, and then up and down. Use a reasonable amount of pressure but not too much — it doesn’t need to be painful. You don’t want to break the skin.
If you’d like, you could also try a tongue scraper.