Benefits of Brushing Your Tongue

by Robert Anders

You probably already know how important brushing and flossing your teeth are to maintaining good dental health. However, without realizing you might be neglecting another important habit to keep your mouth healthy — brushing your tongue.

Widespread ignorance about the reasons for and necessity of tongue-brushing is likely due to the fact that, unlike the teeth, the tongue does not contain the hard surfaces and nooks and crannies that can accumulate debris that eventually leads to cavities.

However, brushing your tongue can be beneficial for other reasons.

tongue with mint

Prevent Bad Breath or Halitosis

By far the most significant problem that can arise from an unbrushed tongue is bad breath or halitosis. The rearmost section of the tongue, in particular, tends to accumulate bacteria that can cause this bad breath.

The front section of the tongue, unlike the back section, tends to be more mobile and better at naturally cleaning itself. Cleaning it manually, therefore, can significantly reduce your likelihood of dealing with a recurring bad breath problem.

Other Bad Breath Causes

Keep in mind, of course, that there are many potential causes for halitosis or bad breath. Bacteria on your tongue is only one of the causes of bad breath.

According to Donald Antonson, DDS, the causes of about 85 percent of halitosis cases are found within the mouth, and therefore are easily treated. About 50 percent of these cases are due to unremoved residues on the tongue.

However, if you notice a problem with bad breath even after cleaning the tongue, you may need to consult with your doctor. Occasionally, bad breath with no discernible cause can be a symptom of a more serious health condition.

Improved Sense of Taste and Weight Loss

Taste buds cover the tongue, with each taste bud made up of taste cells. At the tip of every taste cell is a receptor. When the receptor is coated with debris, it is hampered in doing its job. Not only is it difficult for flavors to trigger the taste cell receptors, but increased difficulty in tasting can lead to increased intake of sugar and fat.

If your tongue cannot taste something and register its consumption, your brain is more likely to crave it.

So if you keep your tongue clean, you will be satisfied with less sugar and fat. This may help you lose weight as well.

Better Love Life

As for the love life connection, even if bad breath is not a problem, what you eat right before a romantic evening might turn off your partner — and brushing alone will not eliminate the smell or taste of pungent food. A clean palate can clear the way for romance.

Since you are now aware of health benefits of brushing your tongue, here are some tools to help you clean.

Tools to Clean Your Tongue

Several different options are available to help you effectively clean your tongue. For example, many disposable plastic flossers for your teeth include built-in tongue scrapers.

Of course, these tools have the added benefit that you can simply throw them away after you are finished with them.

You can also purchase specially designed tongue brushes, if you wish. However, an ordinary soft toothbrush can also be effective; some people even use a teaspoon or a Popsicle stick to clean their tongues.

Any of these options can work well; just remember to not be too rough and accidentally hurt yourself. Rubbing or scraping too hard can actually damage your taste buds or your tongue.

If you are concerned about your ability to properly clean your tongue, you can take advantage of the fact that many dental practices now offer tongue cleaning along with their other, more traditional services.

The problem with having your tongue cleaned at a dentist’s office is that you likely will only be there every six months or so. Ideally, you should brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth, but if you cannot do it that often, at least try to do so once per day.

After you finish brushing your tongue, make sure you rinse your mouth out once or twice with clean, cool water to remove any leftover debris.

Ways to Prevent Gagging While Brushing

Since cleaning the tongue is so obviously important, you might wonder why everyone is not doing it. For many, the advice to brush or scrap their tongue is ignored, not because they do not believe in its importance, but because it irritates their gag reflex.

This problem can be solved by employing the proper technique coupled with practice. By starting at the back, but not too far back, and scraping forward, the natural reaction to avoid unintentional swallowing by gagging is lessened.

Practice will enable you to gain a degree of mastery over your reflexes. The important thing is to start slowly, build on your success and continue practicing. It is also worth mentioning you should clean your tongue before brushing your teeth.

(This guest post is contributed by Robert Anders, who writes for Manhattan Orthodontics – Experts in Invisalign braces. For more information and to check Invisalign costs in NYC, you can visit this site.)

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