There’s more to oral hygiene than just taking care of your teeth. Brushing twice a day and flossing are must-dos, but they don’t address one very important aspect of oral health: the tongue. The tongue can be easy to overlook when considering oral health, but it, just like the teeth, can be a breeding ground for nasty bacteria.
The bacteria that live on the tongue are of course harmful to oral health. They are the most common cause for bad breath, which is an extremely embarrassing issue to deal with. Bacteria on the tongue can also contribute to damaging tooth enamel and thus to the development of cavities. Even yeast infections on the tongue are possible.
What makes bacteria on the tongue a significant problem is that the bacteria is so hard to remove. The rough, varied surface of the tongue provides lots of places for bacteria to hide in. While mouth rinse is valuable, it won’t do much to clean the tongue of bacteria. The bacteria on the tongue form into a what is called a ‘biofilm,’ in which bacteria become tightly stuck to each other and the tongue. Mouthwash removes only the outer layer of biofilm, allowing most of the bacteria to survive.
The solution? Using a toothbrush to scrub the tongue. Yes, it turns out a toothbrush is good for more than just the teeth. Strange though it might seem, brushing the tongue is a critical part of proper oral hygiene. Tongue brushing is the only way to get past the outer layer of biofilm and actually remove bacteria from the tongue for good.
To properly brush the tongue, begin by applying fresh toothpaste to the toothbrush. Then scrub backwards and forwards and side to side. Reaching as deep into the mouth as possible is important to achieving a full cleaning. Scrub vigorously, but not so hard that irritation or bleeding results.
Regularly brushing the tongue will generally solve the problem of bad breath quickly. If bad breath persists, it could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as tooth decay. In such circumstances a trip to the dentist is needed. Outside of this rare contingency, however, simply brushing the tongue on a regular basis is all that is necessary to ensure a healthy, bacteria-free tongue.