Because your Tongue Deserves TLC, too!
You may think you’ve got your oral hygiene game on lock. Brushing and flossing twice a day, maybe tossing a little rinse back on occasion—you’re no stranger to taking care of your mouth. But, you may be unwillingly missing an important part of your routine: brushing your tongue. If you already do it, pat yourself on the back and read why you’re doing it right—we all like a little self-validation. If you’re skipping the regular tongue brush, you’re about to add a new step to your oral care.
Your tongue is bacteria’s favorite hangout.
We all know that we are carrying A LOT of bacteria in and out of our bodies. Speaking of which, when was the last time you cleaned your phone screen? Think about it. Ahem. Anyway, it’s probably no surprise to you that there is bacteria in your mouth. When you eat or drink, more bacteria is introduced to your mouth, and your tongue is like a bacteria bullseye. We spend so much time protecting our teeth from bacteria, but due to the composition of your tongue, you’re actually even more likely to get pesky bacteria stuck in there than on your teeth. Eek!
Your tongue is not smooth. It’s comprised of taste buds and other structures, giving bacteria plenty of nooks and crannies to find. Have you ever looked at your tongue after drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine? You’ve probably noticed that it was stained from its original color. The stain you see, or the clear buildup in the morning before you brush, is not just your saliva; it’s also is what is referred to as a biofilm—a tightly connected group of microorganisms (bacteria!) that stick together on your tongue’s surface.
Mouthwash is a mask.
You may think you’re fine with just squishing some mouthwash around your mouth and calling it a day. That refreshing, minty feel will probably make you think you’ve cured any bad breath your morning joe might have given you, but in terms of actually cleaning your mouth, your favorite mouthwash is really just a mask. Often referred to as “rinse,” mouthwash does just that. It rinses your mouth, but it doesn’t clean it. Think about a dirty saucepan. Rinsing it under the faucet will probably wash away some of the pasta sauce and maybe even make it look fairly clean. But, you’ll still need soap and a sponge or a good run through the dishwasher before the pan is clean enough for use again. Mouthwash may help at a surface level, but it’s not actually removing the bacteria build up.
It’s more than bad breath.
No one likes bad breath, and no one likes bad breath’s older brother—tooth decay. When left untreated, bad breath can actually lead to tooth decay. If you’ve ever popped a breath-freshening mint, you may have noticed a temporary relief in bad smelling breath, but it likely returned shortly after the mint dissolved. That’s because the bad breath (really the biofilm on the tongue’s surface) was not removed; it was just briefly covered up. Technically, by letting a mint roll around on your tongue, you have inadvertently added to the biofilm. Whoops!
Leaving the buildup on the tongue means giving the bacteria access to your entire mouth, not just the tongue. Your tongue brushes up against your teeth, roof of your mouth, and inner cheeks. This means that the bacteria is hitting every part of your mouth’s interior, even if you’re a dedicated teeth brusher and flosser.
The answer is in the brush.
Fortunately, there is a very easy solution to the problem of tongue bacteria, and that’s simply brushing your tongue. Much like how you brush your teeth, it’s not just a couple of quick swipes, spit, and go. Instead, you should thoughtfully approach tongue brushing toward the end of your routine. Move your toothbrush head in a forward and backward motion. It helps to look in the mirror so you can see the different parts of your tongue. Then, move the brush side to side while you look in the mirror. When you’re done with the brushing, be sure to rinse thoroughly with water and spit out in the sink.
By adding under a minute to your morning and evening oral hygiene routines, you’ll be making a lasting positive impact for your mouth’s health. Your mouth will be cleaner, your breath will be fresher…every body wins!