Many people tend to rush through brushing their teeth and neglect one of the most important parts on the mouth, their tongue! Good oral health means your whole mouth, teeth, gums, and tongue included. A few problems can arise if your tongue is neglected.
Bad breath, or halitosis, is probably the most well-known side effect of poor oral hygiene. The tongue, in particular the back of the tongue, tends to collect bacteria and germs. The front of the tongue is actually better at naturally cleaning itself because it moves more, so when you’re cleaning, you should focus on the rear of the tongue. Most oral halitosis is due to residue on the tongue that can be brushed away.
You might be surprised to know that a dirty tongue can actually impede your sense of taste and contribute to weight gain. The tongue houses your taste buds, so when it is coated with residue, the taste cells are prevented from tasting. A decreased sense of taste can be linked to an increased intake of sugar and fat and could cause weight gain.
So, how should you care for your tongue? There are many specialty products out there that can help make the job a little easier. Relatively new on the market are tongue scrapers. There are many different designs of tongue scrapers. There are plastic scrapers built into flossers, or flexible plastic strips designed to be pulled across the tongue. There are also tongue brushes, specially designed for cleaning the tongue. Of course, you can always use a soft toothbrush.
Ideally, you should clean your tongue as often as your teeth, but at least once per day. The scraping or brushing should be done before brushing your teeth. Remember to be gentle—you can actually damage the taste buds or tongue by scraping too aggressively. Many people are deterred from brushing their tongue because of a gag reflex. Start near the back of the tongue and scrape forward, which should prevent the gag reflex from kicking in because it won’t feel like you’re going to unintentionally swallow or choke on something. Brushing your tongue more often will also start to desensitize your gag reflex, so be persistent.