Cleaning your tongue
Badge field

How to clean your tongue for fresher breath

Published date field
Published date field Last Updated: 28 Feb 2024

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

You may be in the good habit of brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing, but did you know, if you’re not also brushing your tongue, you’re missing out on a crucial step in your oral hygiene routine? Read on to find out more about tongue brushing, how it can help with bad breath and how to maintain good oral hygiene at home.

Benefits of Cleaning Your Tongue

Cleaning your tongue may trigger your gag reflex, however, there are so many benefits to tongue brushing or using a scraper to remove the bacteria in your mouth. Here are the five main ones to keep in mind the next time you’re brushing:

  • Reduce bad breath: one of the main benefits of tongue brushing or scraping your tongue is that it can remove odour-causing bacteria.
  • Improve your sense of taste: tongue brushing or scraping can actually help you to taste your food better! Removing the bacteria from your tongue may actually let you taste bitter, sweet, salty and sour flavours better.
  • Improve the appearance of your tongue: brushing can make your tongue look and feel better by removing the white coating that can build up throughout the day.
  • Remove bacteria: scrape your tongue twice a day to help to remove the harmful bacteria in your mouth that can cause bad breath and tooth decay.
  • Improve your overall health: by removing the bacteria in your mouth that cause dental issues like cavities and gum disease, you’re improving the overall health of your mouth and body. [kw1]

Tongue Brushing Techniques

If you’re wondering how to clean your tongue, keep reading to find out the easiest methods. Tongue brushing is simple enough to do just by using the bristles of your toothbrush. You can also try a specialised brush with a built-in tongue cleaner on the back of the head. The tongue harbours bacteria and food debris trapped under a thin layer of mucus. Remove this odour-causing build-up by using a small dab of toothpaste and carefully brushing the top of the tongue. Start by reaching to the back of the tongue, and then work forwards towards the opening of the mouth. Brush the entire top surface of the tongue using gentle pressure, and then rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water.

Using a Tongue Scraper

For a more thorough cleaning, use a tongue scraper. This tool is usually made of soft, flexible plastic and gently peels the thin mucus-based layer of debris from the tongue. Rinse the scraper under warm water after each swipe of the tongue. If your tongue feels sore or begins to bleed, you are using the tongue scraper with too much force. Scrape your tongue slowly and with light pressure. Concentrate on the centre of the tongue where the bulk of odour-causing bacteria lie.

How Often to Clean Your Tongue

Each time you brush and floss your teeth, finish your dental care routine with tongue brushing or scraping. At a minimum, clean your tongue once in the morning and once in the evening before bedtime. If you have dry mouth or notice a foul taste in your mouth around midday, try cleaning your tongue to remedy the situation.

Rinse your mouth with mouthwash after cleaning your tongue to refresh your mouth and kill any leftover bacteria in your mouth. Remember, maintaining fresh breath goes beyond brushing your teeth. Getting into the habit of giving your tongue adequate attention will help to keep your breath neutral and fresh.

How to Deal with Bad Breath

The best way to sort out bad breath is to keep your mouth as clean as possible. By keeping your mouth clean, not only will you have fresher breath, but you’ll also be less likely to encounter other dental problems like cavities and gum disease. If brushing your teeth and tongue scraping isn’t helping to freshen your breath, your dentist may suggest using an antibacterial toothpaste or mouthwash to kill off any harmful bacteria in your mouth that can build up and cause plaque. [kw2]


Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene At Home

There are many other things you can do as part of your oral hygiene routine at home that can help to eliminate bad breath. Follow these simple tips to maintain a good level of oral care and enjoy fresher breath and a brilliant smile:

  • Brush your teeth in the morning and evening – brushing your teeth after you eat is also a bonus!
  • Floss once a day – preferably at night
  • Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper twice a day
  • Clean bridges, dentures, retainers and mouth guards once a day to eliminate bacteria
  • Drink water throughout the day to keep your mouth moist and rinse away food debris and bacteria in your mouth
  • Avoid cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Be aware of the foods that can cause bad breath like onion, garlic and sugary foods
  • Change your toothbrush every 3 months [kw3]

When To See a Dentist

To keep your mouth clean and healthy, visit your dentist twice a year for regular checkups and professional cleaning. If your bad breath is a symptom of gum disease or periodontitis, your dentist may refer you to a gum specialist or hygienist to have your teeth professionally cleaned, they may also suggest replacing any old fillings that can be a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth. [kw4]

If bad breath is a persistent problem for you, ask your dentist for their advice – it’s often an easy problem to fix and can help to give you confidence in your smile again!







Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.