For many, brushing their tongues is not part of the daily oral hygiene routine. If you do not consistently brush your tongue as an important part of cleaning your mouth, this blog is for you. If you do, this will reinforce your motivation to do so. We will explain several important reasons that you should not neglect this essential step in your oral hygiene regimen.
Why Does the Tongue Need to be Cleaned?
The natural anatomy of the tongue consists of hundreds of tiny bumps called papillae. Many people mistakenly call these taste buds. These are not the taste buds themselves, but they do contain the taste receptor cells. There are four different types of papillae with different shapes and different locations on the tongue.
These papillae create innumerable nooks and crannies that can collect dental plaque, which is a combination of food debris, bacteria, and exfoliated tissue cells from the lining of the mouth. It is soft and white-to-yellow in color. This is the same buildup that collects on the teeth and causes dental diseases like cavities and gum disease.
Brushing Your Tongue Improves Bad Breath
The bacteria in dental plaque do not smell good. (Don’t believe us? Take a whiff of your floss sometime…) Some of the bacteria in the mouth produce stinky gases called Volatile Sulfur Compounds, or VSCs. The more bacteria you have, the more gas they can produce, which leads to more and more noxious fumes in your breath.
For many, this is a problem that occurs with severe gum disease or a mouth full o cavities. For those with healthy mouths, though, this bad breath can be quite frustrating. Often, the culprit is bacteria in dental plaque on the tongue. By brushing your tongue, just as with brushing your teeth and flossing, you are physically removing the dental plaque and the bacteria it contains from your mouth.
Brushing Your Tongue Removes Bacteria from Your Mouth
Brushing and flossing alone do not remove all of the disease-causing dental plaque from your mouth. They remove it from your teeth, but not necessarily from the whole mouth. It doesn’t take long for plaque and the bacteria within to collect on the teeth after brushing and flossing. Studies show that it can happen in less than 30 minutes, depending on the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
Patients in treatment for active gum disease or decay (cavities) have a higher bacterial load in their mouths and should take particular care to remove as much bacteria from the mouth as possible! We believe everyone should be brushing his or her tongue, and we especially want patients with active dental problems to do so. Brushing your tongue will lower the overall bacterial load in your mouth, thus reducing your risk for bacterial infections like cavities and gum disease.
Brushing Your Tongue Helps You See it Clearly
Now why would you want to see your tongue clearly? If you are asking yourself that question, you should read our previous blog “What Your Tongue Can Tell You about Your Overall Health”. In it, we discuss the many important clues your tongue can give you about what is going on in the rest of your body. Your tongue can reveal vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, gastrointestinal diseases, or problems with hormones or hydration. When your body is completely healthy, your tongue will look completely normal.
If your body is not completely healthy, your tongue might show you some signs of abnormality. Where brushing the tongue enters the picture is in your need to evaluate the tongue for these signs of abnormality. If your tongue has a coating of plaque, appearing white or yellow-white, then you are not actually seeing your tongue. You must brush away the debris to see the tissue underneath it.
More Questions about Oral Hygiene or the Tongue?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with our oral health experts. We can give you tips and pointers on cleaning your mouth better and identify any risk factors your tongue could be showing.