Did you know your tongue helps you speak, eat, swallow and taste your food? You probably do not think about your tongue much, but it is really important.
The tongue is a muscle. It is covered with a moist coating known as mucosa, and has millions of tiny bumps called papillae. These papillae give the tongue its rough texture and some of these papillae contain taste buds which allow us to taste our food and drink. This bumpy surface can collect bits of food and of course millions of bacteria or microorganisms, called flora.
Just like your thumb print, the tongue flora is different for every single person.
Cleaning your tongue can reduce the amount of bacteria on the tongue. While the impact of reducing the amount of bacteria on the tongue has not been proven yet, some studies suggest it may improve gum and tooth health as well as mouth freshness.
Bad breath, known as halitosis, is sometimes given as the main reason to clean your tongue. However a review of the scientific evidence in 2019 found no evidence that cleaning your tongue, using several different methods including mouthwash or chewing gum, were effective for managing the cause of halitosis. Bad breath can actually originate from other areas of the body including the lungs and the nose!
If you like the feeling of cleaning your tongue or if you do decide to clean your tongue, you need to be very gentle because the tongue surface is delicate and sensitive! Provided it has a soft bristle, our toothbrush can be used for this task, though other tools such as tongue scrapers can also be used.
Start gently at the back of the tongue, pulling or brushing forward and use water to lubricate the process so the brush doesn’t drag along the tongue surface.
The key tips to keeping your whole mouth healthy are:
- brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride containing toothpaste,
- clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental brushes,
- drink plenty of water,
- stop smoking,
- limit sugary foods and drinks, and
- see your dentist regularly for a general dental check-up and personalised oral health advice.
These tips are all evidence based and are proven to be effective in maintaining optimal oral health!