In order to remove odor-causing deposits that build up during the day, brushing your tongue should be just as much a part of your daily oral care routine as your teeth. And you don't just have to use your toothbrush to do this.
In fact, a tongue brush or tongue scraper may provide a more thorough clean than most toothbrushes when it comes to the tongue. Why? Although toothbrushes remove some tongue deposits, they aren't made specifically for cleaning the tongue surface.
Cleaning your tongue removes the layer of food debris, bacteria and dead cells that collect naturally every day. This helps to prevent bad breath, of which the American Dental Association (ADA) suggests poor oral hygiene is a chief cause – along with dry mouth, diet, gum disease and tobacco. If you don't brush your tongue, oral bacteria accumulate on its surface, mostly toward the back of the tongue. And when you breathe out this bacteria, you release an unpleasant odor on your breath.
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 need it to. The tongue's surface may be soft against your teeth, but it is actually quite rough and covered in tiny crevices that bacteria often hide in. Toothbrushes are really designed to clean the hard, smooth surface of tooth enamel and reach into grooves that are much larger than these fissures within the tongue.
Benefits of Tongue Cleaners
Tongue brushes and tongue scrapers are made to penetrate tiny tongue fissures and clean out unhealthy deposits. The Cochrane Database Systemic Review once looked at two studies on tongue hygiene, and found that patients who used a tongue cleaner experienced fresher breath than those who brushed their tongues with only a toothbrush.
What should you do? Clean your tongue before or after brushing your teeth – no particular order is better than another. Brushes such as Colgate® 360°® Floss Tip Toothbrush have the appropriate tongue brush on the reverse side, so it's easy to flip it over and clean your tongue without keeping more than one item in stock. You can also use a tongue scraper.
When doing so, make sure you rinse the tongue brush or scraper with clean water before and after using it. You'll want to dab a small amount of toothpaste on the tongue brush. Begin as far back along your tongue as you can without gagging and work your way forward, using gentle circular motions with a brush or smoothly dragging the scraper. Once you've cleaned your whole upper tongue surface, rinse your tongue. When brushing, avoid pressing so hard with a tongue brush or scraper that your tongue bleeds or becomes sore.
Cleaning your tongue may feel a little strange at first, but a healthy, pink, clean tongue is a great incentive to make it a habit. You can also feel more confident that your breath is fresh. Use a tongue cleaner for the best results.