The tongue was once thought to be the body’s strongest single muscle. Modern science revealed that it’s eight muscles working together to enable daily tasks like talking, chewing, tasting, swallowing or even testing a frozen flagpole.
Unfortunately, tongue-cleaning often takes a back seat during at-home oral care, with greater emphasis placed on cleaning teeth and gums. Cleaning your tongue twice each day is a great way to maintain good oral and overall health.
In a mirror, look closely at your tongue. Can you see the tiny bumps, called “papillae,” that help you feel textures and taste? Taste buds are very sensitive and let us know if something is sweet, sour, bitter, salty or – as in the case of “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” – just right.
Good bacteria live in the mouth and promote a healthy environment. However, when food particles are left behind, bad bacteria form and can lead to tooth decay, gum infections or bad breath. Cleaning your tongue removes bad bacteria and can even improve your ability to taste. Bon appétit!
If you have a toothbrush handy, you can start cleaning your tongue today. After you have brushed your teeth and flossed as you normally would, stick out your tongue as far as you can. Starting at the back of your tongue, use your toothbrush to brush lightly towards the front.
Repeat the process on all sections, rinsing your toothbrush each time and spitting out saliva as needed.
You can also purchase a tongue scraper to clean your tongue. There are a variety of different kinds to choose from, but most are made from plastic or metal and have a V-shaped or rounded top.
Always follow the package directions, but the routine is similar to using a toothbrush. Stick out your tongue and scrape from the back to the front, applying light pressure and rinsing the instrument each time.
The tips I listed are for cleaning healthy tongues. Tongues can give visual clues of underlying health issues so, if you notice discoloration or have any tongue sores or pain, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
For a healthier mouth, make tongue cleaning part of your daily at-home oral care routine.
Jordan Haire, DDS is a dentist in practice with ROC Dental Group in Bluffton.