While brushing and flossing alone reduces the amount of bacteria in your mouth, did you know that over 50% of oral bacteria sit on your tongue? This bacteria is often responsible for bad breath and can also contribute to tooth decay, so properly removing it can greatly reduce the occurrence and keep breath fresh, for much longer. Caring for your tongue is just as important as the teeth and gums, so don’t leave it behind!
Why it’s important
The mouth is one of the main gateways for pathogens into your body and is also the beginning of your digestive tract. Your tongue is actually the first organ of digestion, aiding food down the esophagus as you swallow. It is also a mode of detoxification and is part of the first line of immune defense. Since up to half of oral bacteria can sit on your tongue, if you’re only brushing teeth and gums, you are leaving behind quite a bit of bacteria in your mouth as well as swallowing some of it, sending it back into your body. Bacteria isn’t the only thing on your tongue either. Food debris and dead skin cells often find their home on the surface of your tongue.
Bacteria buildup on the tongue can begin to look quite obvious. Have you ever noticed a coating on your tongue or that of your child’s? This coating is an accumulation of mostly bacteria and toxins from the body’s cleansing and detoxifying process. During sleep, the body works to eliminate toxins and waste in your system, some of which deposit on the surface of your tongue. This is often why you can see this coating primarily in the morning.
Kids generally have pretty clean, pink tongues. As we get older though, we consistently develop this coating on the back of the tongue which can vary in color from yellow, white or even orange. Breast or bottle fed babies can also develop a coating as well.
When this coating isn’t removed, not only can we reabsorb the bacteria and toxins, but it often results in bad breath, increased risk for cavities and gum disease. This coating also Keeping your mouth and tongue clean is not only important to your oral health, but also that of your digestive and immune health.
Why buy a scraper?
Dental research has long concluded that scrapers are far more effective at removing bacteria and toxins than a toothbrush. Tongue scrapers are uniquely shaped to fit in the back of the mouth, where the coating generally accumulates the thickest. They are made of metal in a long, flat, and thin “U” shape. It is designed for ease of use and to clean more thoroughly than scrubbing with a toothbrush. Many modern toothbrushes are designed with raised rubber or plastic scrapers on the backside of the bristle head as well.
You may also use the edge of a metal spoon or the backside of a butter knife. Using a toothbrush to scrub the tongue not only takes far more time and work to accomplish, but is also quite prone to cause gagging, which no one is too fond of, and can be difficult to clean out of the bristles. You can find scrapers at most health stores or drug stores in the oral hygiene section.
How to do it
Scraping is best done daily before brushing and flossing in the morning hours, say, after breakfast before you brush and floss for the day.
- Whether you are doing this yourself or you are doing so for your child, with a scraper in both hands, hold out your tongue or ask you child to and gently press the scraper on the tongue and pull lightly in a downward motion, but enough to pull the coating off. Repeat as needed until the tongue is clean and clear.
- Rinse the scraper and store in a clean place.
- If you are using a built-in toothbrush scraper, a spoon, or butter knife edge, you may need to repeat several times to cover the surface of the tongue.