Amanda Orvis, RDH
Do Not Forget About Your Tongue
There are a significant number of bacteria in our mouths. These bacteria are found in the build-up surrounding our teeth and coating our tongues. If these bacteria are left untouched they can lead to severe bad breath which is also known as halitosis. In order to keep these bacteria to a minimum we need to maintain healthy brushing and flossing habits as well as scraping or brushing our tongues daily.
Tongue scraping should be done at least once a day and there is a specific way to remove the bacteria. When using a tongue scraper the scraper should be placed on the back of the tongue and gently scraped from the back to the front for approximately 5-10 strokes. Make sure to rinse your tongue scraper between scrapes so you do not push the bacteria back and forth on the tongue. Tongue scraping can trigger the gag reflex, so make sure to scrape gently and take a break between scrapes if needed.
Tongue scrapers can come in various shapes and sizes and can be found in most drug stores.
There are other causes of bad breath such as smoking, dry mouth, yeast infections and/ or medication use. Research shows that by maintaining regular tongue scraping habits most people can be effective in eliminating their bad breath even with these other causes.
Tongue brushing can also be effective in reducing bad breath and removing bacteria; however research shows that tongue brushing is less effective than tongue scraping. The reason for this is that tooth brushes are meant to remove bacterial coating and debris from the smooth surfaces of our teeth. Our tongues have many small projections called papilla and can often have deep grooves and/or crevices. When tongue brushing with your regular toothbrush the toothbrush bristles may push the bacteria further into the grooves. So be gentle when brushing and move in the same direction as tongue scraping, rinsing between brush strokes.
- Start scraping or brushing from the back of your tongue moving forward.
- Rinse your scraper between scrapes and after you are finished.
- Scrape for at least 5-10 strokes.
- Scrape the full top surface of your tongue.
- If using a toothbrush or tongue brush move in the same direction as your tongue scraper from the back to the front, rinsing between each stroke.
- Rinse your mouth out after you are done tongue scraping or tongue brushing.
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