young man brushing teeth and tongue while looking at the mirror

Tongue Brush Vs. Toothbrush: Which Is Better?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Are you wondering about how to take the best care of your tongue? Well, just by asking, you're on the right track. Cleaning your tongue is an important part of your oral care. And using a toothbrush to brush your tongue isn't the only option for taking care of your tongue. A tongue brush or tongue scraper may provide a more thorough clean than most toothbrushes when it comes to the tongue. As you read on, we'll look at tongue cleaning in general and why it's different than brushing your teeth. Then we'll look into the benefits of tongue brushes and tongue scrapers.

Tongue Cleaning

Cleaning your tongue helps eliminate oral bacteria accumulating on the tongue's surface, mostly toward the back. Certain bacteria on the back of the tongue interact with amino acids from food and produce smelly sulfur compounds that give you bad breath. One study says that although tongue cleaning reduces this odor, tongue cleaning combined with a rinse is even more effective.

Tongue vs. Enamel

Due to the differences between the tongue's surface and tooth enamel, toothbrushes may not clean the tongue as thoroughly as you'd like them to. The tongue's surface may feel soft against your teeth, but it is quite rough and covered with tiny crevices, making it easy for bacteria to hide. The first job of toothbrushes isn't handling these little spaces; it's to clean the hard, smooth surface of tooth enamel and reach into much larger grooves.

Tongue Brush vs. Tongue Scraper

Tongue brushes and tongue scrapers penetrate the tiny fissures on the tongue and clean out harmful deposits. Tongue brushes look like your toothbrush but have a wide surface that brushes the surface of the tongue. Tongue scrapers, on the other hand, curve to fit the natural shape of your tongue and are either plastic or metal. According to a recent study, tongue cleaners, in general, reduce the number of bacteria on the tongue. And the plastic tongue scraper in this study was the most effective in removing the bacteria. However, more research needs to be done to determine which tool is the best for cleaning the tongue.

If you want to try cleaning your tongue with a tongue brush or scraper, make sure you rinse them with clean water before and after using it. To clean your tongue, dab a small amount of toothpaste on your tongue brush. Begin at the back tongue and work your way forward, using gentle circular motions with the brush or smoothly dragging your scraper. Once you've cleaned your tongue's surface, rinse your tongue. Make sure to avoid pressing too hard with the tongue brush or scraper. You don't want to make your tongue bleed or feel sore in any way. That's not the goal.

Now you know all about cleaning your tongue. Of course, you can brush your tongue with a toothbrush. But a tongue brush or scraper can help you refine this practice and keep your tongue as clean as possible. Remember to be gentle when you clean your tongue. If you want to start cleaning your tongue, try a brush or scraper today. Or ask your dentist what they recommend.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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