Why Should I Brush My Tongue?


When it comes to oral health, people focus on the teeth. After all, we say toothbrush and toothpaste. Don’t forget that the rest of the mouth—including the tongue—also plays a critical role in your oral health.

Many of our patients at My Family Dentistry ask us, “Do I really need to brush my tongue?” The answer is definitely yes.

Brushing your tongue helps get rid of bacteria in the mouth. It also stimulates healthy saliva flow, which helps maintain a healthy oral environment. In fact, the ADA has said that tongue brushing can reduce bad breath symptoms by up to 70%.

Cleaning the tongue also reduces your risk for gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental health issues. The bacteria trapped on the tongue can spread to other parts of the mouth, undoing all the good work you’ve done by brushing and flossing.

Finally, you should brush your tongue because mouthwash usually fails to clean the tongue adequately. Plaque on the tongue needs to be scraped or brushed away.

How Often Should I Brush My Tongue?

You can brush your tongue as often as you brush your teeth. At least once per day should be your goal. If you frequently have a white or yellowish discoloration at the back of the tongue, you may want to brush even more often.

I Hate to Brush My Tongue—What Should I Do?

A lot of patients tell us, “I hate to brush my tongue because it makes me gag.” There are a few things you can do to help alleviate this issue for you or your child.

  • Use a tongue scraper device or spoon, scraping forward from the back of the tongue. You can also try this with dental floss.
  • Brush the tongue without toothpaste using a dampened soft toothbrush. This helps you avoid accidentally swallowing toothpaste or irritating the throat.
  • Brush the tongue sideways, if you can reach the back of the tongue that way.
  • Relax your tongue and facial muscles and think about something else. Or try concentrating intensely on the idea of gagging. A lot of the discomfort is psychological, and you can trick yourself into getting over it.

Methods for Brushing the Tongue

Hold your toothbrush with the head sideways, or perpendicular to the tongue. Scrub in firm strokes from the back of the tongue toward the front of your mouth. Bacteria on tongues get stuck at the very back, so you’ll need to stick your tongue out a little bit.

If you use a tongue scraper, spoon or floss, start from the very back of the tongue and firmly scrape all the way to the tip of the tongue. Then rinse with water. Your tongue should look redder and healthier afterward.

We love to help people discover new and better ways to take care of their teeth and mouth. Make an appointment with My Family Dentistry for a friendly check-up and we can tell you how you’re doing!

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