Let’s Talk Tongues: An Important Aspect of Oral Health
Posted: July 25, 2021
Last Modified: May 19, 2022
Ever since you started brushing your teeth, you’ve probably been told – both by your parents or guardians and your dental office – to make sure you brush your teeth at least twice every day. But how often have you been told that you should brush your tongue?
Our tongues come into contact with just as much food and bacteria as our teeth do, but we usually don’t give them so much as a second thought. Unfortunately, this can be a mistake that not only contributes to a list of embarrassing problems, but can negatively affect your oral health, too.
Today, it’s time to talk about tongues, why you need to keep yours clean, and how to do it.
Why it’s Important to Clean Your Tongue
When bacteria are looking for a place to live inside your mouth, they’re looking for something warm, dark, and constantly moist, and what better place than amongst the thousands of tiny papillae on your tongue? Now, don’t panic – not all forms of bacteria are inherently bad or harmful. However, when some of the bad ones move in, they can stick you with everything from bad breath to gum disease.
What Happens If I Don’t Clean My Tongue?
Cleaning your tongue might seem like overkill (after all, how dirty could it possibly get, right?), but there are plenty of consequences to ignoring it. From the mildly embarrassing to the deeply damaging, here’s a quick overview of the issues that can arise from a neglected tongue.
Poorer Sense of Taste
Your tongue is an incredible muscle that does a lot of work. It’s exposed to bacteria and food, and is constantly regenerating papillae to keep your sense of taste sharp. However, if you haven’t cleaned your tongue in a while, it might be covered in a layer of biofilm (composed of the aforementioned bacteria, skin cells, and food debris) that can actually reduce your sense of taste.
A Black Tongue That Looks Fuzzy
It sounds too gross to be true, but this phenomenon can occur when the papillae on your tongue get stained or discoloured by the food or drink you’re eating – and then you never brush it away. When you open your mouth, a tongue that looks like it’s covered in fuzzy, dark hair might be startling, but don’t worry, this effect isn’t permanent. To keep your tongue looking fresh, clean, and pink, it’s absolutely necessary to give it a good clean once in a while.
Got spots? It might be a yeast infection of the mouth, also known as oral thrush. Oral thrush is a condition caused by the imbalance of bacteria in your mouth when you don’t brush your tongue or when naturally occurring yeast grows out of control. You’ll need some antifungal treatment to get rid of it, but regular tongue cleaning afterward will help keep it away.
If the bacteria on your tongue is left to flourish over time, it migrates to your teeth and gums, where it can take new life as periodontal disease. The first sign is usually gingivitis, which shows up as red, irritated-looking gums.
If you ignore it instead of making an appointment at a dentist office in Barrie, gingivitis can develop into full-blown periodontal disease where your gums pull away from your teeth and infection takes root in the new gaps. If that’s ignored, you may start to lose your teeth and bone from your jaw.
How to Clean Your Tongue The Right Way
The name of the tongue-cleaning game is gentle scraping to remove any built-up bacteria, and there are several ways you can do it.
- Tongue scraper – Tongue scrapers come in a variety of sizes, made from many different materials, but what you’re looking for is a tool with a handle for comfortable holding and a curved or triangular edge that can be gently scraped along the tongue.
- Toothbrush – No tongue scraper? No problem. Most toothbrushes come with a ridged or textured portion on the back of the head, which can be used as a tongue scraper. If all you have are bristles, then that’s all you need (just make sure to rinse them after each scrape, so you’re not putting all that bacteria right back where it came from).
Don’t ever try to scrape so far that you hit the back of your throat, and apply only very gentle pressure. Too much force can lead you to damaging your tongue. When you’re done, clean your toothbrush or scraper with warm water, and be sure to rinse out your mouth.
Regular Checkups at Your Local Dentist Office
One of the best ways to make sure that everything is as it should be with regard to your oral health is to visit your Barrie dentist. Our dental office is conveniently located on Mapleview Drive in Barrie, Ontario, and we offer everything from preventative dental care to prosthodontic replacement of missing teeth. With a focus on quality, we make sure our clients understand our recommendations for their oral health, and we work with them to create a customized treatment plan to achieve their oral health goals.
To learn more about the services we provide at our dentist’s office in Barrie, give us a call at (705) 721-1143. You can also contact us online.