Should you brush your tongue? Of course you’re brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes (I hope!). At The Online Dentist, we are often contacted by people who are unsure if they should be brushing their tongue. Well, if you have concerns about bad breath and halitosis, brushing your tongue may be the solution.

Do I need to explain what your tongue is? I can’t imagine I do. Look in the mirror, open your mouth and it’s that pink, wriggly thing that’s waving at you. Your tongue helps you while eating to move food around your mouth and it also helps you to make certain sounds while talking. That’s why you shouldn’t speak with your mouth full. Not because it’s rude. It’s just not fair on your tongue to give it that many jobs!

Anyway, we’ve worked out what a tongue is. But you may not know that your tongue is a harbour for bacteria. It collects bacteria and bugs like nobody’s business. To a certain extent, that is natural and healthy but when bacteria take over, it can be a source of bad breath. Bacteria can work away all day, kicking up a stink on your tongue and creating a danger zone around your mouth.

Bad breath - The Online Dentist

It’s important to mention that if you have bad breath, it may not be coming from your tongue or mouth. It could be coming from other places such as your nose or tonsils. If you have bad breath it’s really important to work out what is causing it. In our article on bad breath, we have a really handy way to work out the cause of your bad breath. Take a look here.

Do I have to brush my tongue?

No, I don’t think so. If you don’t get bad breath and your mouth is healthy then I don’t see much need. However, if you get bad breath or you have gum disease then it might be a good idea to clean your tongue as well as your teeth.

When should I clean my tongue?

If you think your tongue might be the cause of your bad breath, you should clean your tongue before you brush your teeth.

What do I use to clean my tongue?

You could get a tongue scraper. Personally, I haven’t used one of these but they are specifically designed to remove muck from your tongue. However, I prefer to use a toothbrush.

Important point! You should not be using the same toothbrush that you brush your teeth with. If you use the same brush on your tongue and then your teeth, you risk spreading these tongue bacteria about. I would recommend that you have a separate toothbrush to clean your tongue. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You want a manual brush with a small head and medium bristles. A really simple toothbrush will do the job.

Cleaning your tongue - The Online Dentist

How do I brush my tongue?

You should clean your tongue before you brush your teeth. You don’t need to use toothpaste on your tongue. Just wet the tongue scrapper or toothbrush. Start at the back of your tongue and brush or scrape forwards. If it hurts or your tongue bleeds, you are pushing too hard.

Clean carefully. When you first start brushing your tongue, you may find that it makes you feel a bit sick. Touching the back of your tongue can make you gag if you are not used to it. Don’t overdo it. Once you get used to brushing your tongue, it will feel more comfortable and you will be able to clean further back.

You should be trying to clean your tongue as far back as you can. Most bacteria will collect at the very back of your tongue and mouth. But, as mentioned above, don’t make yourself gag or feel sick.

Once you have finished brushing your tongue, clean the brush or scraper under cold water. Rinse your mouth out with water too. Then you can swap to your normal tooth brush and brush your teeth as normal.

If cleaning your tongue does not improve your breath, there may be another cause. You may need to visit your dentist for advice. If you would like to know more about bad breath and how to fix it, read our article.

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