Be Sure to Clean Your Tongue!


We put a lot of emphasis on the importance of brushing and flossing teeth when patients are undergoing treatment with braces, Invisalign, or other treatments. This is important, because we want you to have a perfect smile when the process is complete. That doesn’t just mean having straight teeth. We want your teeth to be healthy and your mouth to be free from cavities and gum disease. So, there’s more to your oral health than simply brushing and flossing. You also have to clean your tongue!

Even after you brush and floss, your tongue can still have residue on it that can lead to plaque, cavities, bad breath, and other problems. Let’s take a closer look at why you should clean your tongue every day, the benefits you get from cleaning it, and some different ways to keep your tongue clean and fresh.

Why You Should Clean Your Tongue

When bits of food are left in your teeth, harmful bacteria are attracted to them. This leads to plaque, tartar, and eventually things like dental caries (cavities) and even gum disease. Brushing and flossing does a pretty good job of keeping food and plaque off your teeth, and a professional dental cleaning once or twice a year is also necessary.

Your tongue collects unwanted particles too. The tiny bumps and grooves on the surface of the tongue can collect food and bacteria. We have a layer of mucus that covers the insides of our mouths, and also the surface of the tongue, trapping those unwanted particles in place. When bacteria and food particles get trapped there, it can lead to bad breath and a discolored tongue. Even if you’re very diligent about brushing and flossing, particles of food and bacteria on your tongue can still be transferred to your teeth, offsetting the work you’ve done on your oral hygiene.

Benefits of Cleaning Your Tongue

The Journal of Periodontology found in 2004 that cleaning the tongue effectively reduced sulfur compounds on the top of it. These compounds are what causes bad breath in many cases. Using a tongue scraper was found to be even more effective than using a toothbrush. Additional published studies have shown that cleaning the tongue reduces plaque and bacteria, and leaves the mouth feeling fresher. Cleaning your tongue can even improve your sense of taste, so you can enjoy the flavors of your foods more.

Cleaning with a Tongue Scraper

You can find tongue scrapers in the same aisle of the pharmacy as toothbrushes. A scraper costs a little more than a good toothbrush, but one will basically last forever if it’s kept clean. You can use a toothbrush to clean your tongue as well, but most of the research has shown that this tool works best.

To use a scraper, stick out your tongue as far as you can. Put the scraper as far back on your tongue as you can, without triggering a gag reflex. Put downward pressure on the scraper, and move it from back to front across the surface of the tongue. Rinse the scraper in warm water to clear off the materials you just scraped off your tongue. Repeat that process several times until you’ve cleared the surface of your tongue.

Scraping your tongue knocks a lot of debris loose in the mouth so it’s a good idea to rinse one last time afterwards. Clean the scraper between uses and store it in a safe place. The same process for cleaning from back to front on the tongue can also be done with a toothbrush. However, it’s worth spending a couple of extra bucks on a scraper because they work so well. Scrape your tongue at least once or twice a day for the best results!

If you’re thinking about affordable braces, invisible braces for adults, Invisalign or any other orthodontic treatment to correct your smile, contact us here at Valderrama Orthodontics.