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Oral Health Buzz

Using a Tongue Cleaner for a Cleaner Mouth

Carol Wiley

In addition to using a toothbrush to clean your teeth, you can improve your mouth's freshness by using a tongue cleaner. Millions of bacteria collect on your tongue, and simply brushing your teeth doesn't remove those bacteria. Tongue bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds, which can cause bad breath. The bacteria may also have the potential to cause other health issues.

Tongue Cleaning Tools

You have three choices for cleaning your tongue. You can use a tongue scraper, brush your tongue with your regular toothbrush or use a specially made tongue brush. A tongue scraper is the traditional method for cleaning the tongue. Today, you can buy scrapers made from plastic or metal. Simply place the edge of the tool on the back of your tongue, and gently pull the scraper forward.

Some people use a regular toothbrush to clean the tongue. The disadvantage of using a regular toothbrush on the tongue is that the bristles are designed to clean the smooth surfaces of your teeth. Your tongue is a rough surface with many tiny crevices, and regular toothbrush bristles may not do a thorough cleaning job. A 2004 study in the Journal of Periodontology showed that a toothbrush reduced the production of volatile sulfur compounds by 45 percent while a tongue scraper reduced production by 75 percent.

Your third choice for tongue cleaning is a tongue brush with bristles designed to clean out the crevices of the tongue. A 2008 study in the Journal of Applied Oral Sciences showed that this relatively recent invention performs with about the same effectiveness as a traditional tongue scraper. You can even buy combination products, such as the Colgate® 360°® toothbrush, which have a toothbrush on one side and a tongue brush on the other.

Using Your Tongue Cleaner

You can clean your tongue either before or after you brush your teeth; no studies support a particular cleaning order. Your tongue is sensitive, so it's important to be gentle and not to press the cleaner too forcefully into your tongue. Here are a few more general cleaning tips:

  • Rinse your tongue cleaner before and after using it to remove bacteria and food debris that may be present.
  • Start cleaning at the back of your tongue, and work your way forward.
  • Scrape and clean the entire top and side surfaces of your tongue, not just the center.
  • If you use a tongue brush, move it the same way you moved the tongue cleaner from the back of the tongue to the front of the tongue. You may have to use this method a few times in order to adequately clean your entire tongue.
  • Rinse the tongue brush or tongue scraper off after you use it to remove bacteria and any food debris from the areas of the tongue you cleaned.
  • Rinse your mouth after cleaning your tongue.

Cleaning your tongue may be a new venture for you. Try these different methods to find the one that works best for you. Tongue cleaners are inexpensive. They boost oral hygiene while helping to prevent bad breath.

Learn more about bad breath in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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