The Best Way to Clean Your Tongue
In the mouth, the teeth and gums may steal the limelight in our typical oral care routines. But there’s another organ that’s well-deserving of a good, regular cleaning: the tongue. Your tongue enables proper eating and talking, but without proper care, it can contribute to health complications. This blog will explore why and how to clean your tongue.
Why clean your tongue?
Although your tongue might feel smooth, it actually has a pretty rough surface. If you look in the mirror, you would see that your tongue is covered in bumps—up to 4,000 of them! These are your taste buds, which are the sensory organs that allow you to taste foods that are bitter, salty, sour, and sweet.
Those, along with the short, hair-like papillae that help you eat, can contribute to a “dirty” tongue. Over time, food debris and harmful bacteria gradually accumulate on the surface of these features of your tongue. This can result in bad breath, cavities, tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health conditions.
Fortunately, by cleaning your tongue regularly, you’ll be able to enjoy a healthy, beautiful smile and better overall oral health. Studies have shown that daily tongue cleaning can help fight bacteria that lead to bad breath, tongue discoloration, and plaque buildup.
The best way to clean your tongue: an oral care trio
When you start cleaning your tongue each day, you’ll be amazed at how much fresher and cleaner your mouth feels. From using your toothbrush and trying out a tongue scraper to finding the perfect oil-pulling solution, here’s how to clean your tongue naturally at home.
1. Use your toothbrush after brushing
Using a toothbrush is one of the easiest ways to keep your tongue clean—and it’s something we can all do more of. According to a 2019 study, just 18.4% of participants reported using a toothbrush to clean their tongue and less than half had active tongue cleaning habits at all.
Cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush
To clean your tongue with a toothbrush, choose a soft-bristle toothbrush. After brushing your teeth, you can get to work on your tongue.
Between brushing your teeth and cleaning your tongue, be sure to rinse your toothbrush off. After that, stick your tongue out, and brush in a forward motion from the back of your tongue. Spit out any saliva and rinse off your toothbrush when you’re done.
If you have a gag reflex, cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush might be easier at night than in the morning. Aim to brush your tongue as often as you brush your teeth.
2. Try a tongue scraper
Even if you’re a diligent twice-a-day brusher and are consistent with flossing and using mouthwash, bacteria and food particles will continue to linger on your tongue. This makes a tongue scraper an essential tool in your oral care routine.
Tongue scrapers are reusable tools made with plastic or metal—with the latter being a safer, more durable option. These tongue cleaning tools are bent in half, creating a V-shape, or have a handle with a rounded edge at the top, creating a U-shape.
Do tongue scrapers actually work?
Tooth be told, a toothbrush isn’t always 100% effective in cleaning your tongue. They’re designed for your teeth and gums, after all! On the other hand, tongue scrapers are designed specifically to remove food particles and bacteria that become trapped by the papillae and taste buds.
In fact, one study published in 2004 found that tongue scrapers removed 30% more (bad breath producing) sulfur compounds than soft-bristled toothbrushes. Another study from 2005 discovered that using it twice per day for seven days significantly reduced harmful bacteria on the tongue.
In addition to removing food particles, sulfur compounds, and bacteria, tongue scrapers offer other benefits like:
- Fresher breath: Bacteria on the tongue is the main cause of bad breath. Removing those bacteria with a tongue scraper will help reduce bad breath.
- Improved tongue appearance: A healthy tongue is a lovely pink color. Debris buildup can give the tongue an unpleasant yellow, white, or even black appearance.
- Better overall oral health: The fewer bacteria you have in your mouth, the lower your risk of oral health problems like plaque, tartar, cavities, and gum disease.
How to use a tongue scraper
It’s relatively simple to use a tongue scraper. For the most part, you just scrape it along your tongue, rinse, and repeat. Be sure to clean it before storing the tongue scraper, too.
For the most effective tongue cleaning, consider the following steps:
- Start at the back of the tongue: Scrape from the back of the tongue toward the tip.
- Be gentle: Apply pressure, but don’t push the tongue scraper down too hard.
- Clean the scraper: Between each section of your tongue, rinse the scraper off to prevent bacteria buildup.
- Repeat: Scrape the down the center and the sides of the tongue until the entire tongue feels clean.
3. Incorporate oil pulling into your routine
Although oil pulling is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing, incorporating it into your oral hygiene routine is a great way to keep your tongue clean, reduce gum inflammation, and prevent tooth decay.
How to promote a clean tongue with oil pulling
For the best results, use an oil-pulling solution with active ingredients like coconut oil and activated charcoal to help trap and remove bacteria from your tongue, and keep your breath fresh. To keep your mouth clean, use one teaspoon of oil-pulling solution first thing in the morning before brushing your teeth and using a tongue scraper.
What are we removing from the tongue when we clean it?
Say you incorporate this trifecta of tools into your oral care routine. How exactly are you supporting your tongue?
In order to recognize what we’re removing when we clean the tongue, let’s start with what was on the tongue before you cleaned it off with a toothbrush, tongue scraper, or rinse of oil-pulling solution.
White stuff on tongue: Also referred to as “white tongue,” a thick white coating on the top of the tongue may be accompanied by irritation, redness, bad breath, or an unattractive “hairy” look.
This is often caused by debris (food and sugar), bacteria, or dead skin cells that get trapped between the tongue’s papillae.
Untreated, the papillae may swell up and become inflamed, leading to more buildup of plaque, food, and bacteria—and subsequent risk for gum disease.
Yellow stuff on tongue: “Yellow tongue” is often just a harmless buildup of dead skin cells that collect on the papillae.
The yellow appearance is a result of enlarged papillae that have collected bacteria that produce yellow pigments.
In some cases, food, tobacco, and other substances may also stain the enlarged papillae, producing a yellow color.
Black stuff on tongue: While “black tongue” may be alarming to see, it’s generally nothing to be too concerned about.
Also the result of the buildup of dead skin cells, bacteria, and other substances on the tongue’s papillae, a black-appearing tongue may form a hairy coating that may produce a tingling, burning, or gagging feeling.
Treat your tongue to the best with Terra & Co.
Alongside brushing and flossing, cleaning your tongue is essential to maintaining a beautiful, healthy smile. While in most cases it’s not a cause for serious concern, no one likes a tongue that looks vastly different from a healthy pink one—especially when it could lead to serious oral care concerns.
Fortunately, Terra & Co.’s Brilliant Black Bamboo Toothbrush, combined with our Charcoal Oil-Pulling Solution + Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner provide a triple threat against a dirty tongue. Together, they can restore your tongue to its natural vitality quickly and easily—while making our planet a little greener, too!