When you come into our office for your regular cleanings, you may notice that we don’t just use a single tool to get the job done. We use many. Scalers help remove plaque and debris from your teeth. Curettes clear plaque below the gum line. We use polishers and floss, not to mention a variety of applicators for irrigating with ozone.
All are needed to get your mouth as clean as possible. No one tool alone is enough to get the job done. And what’s true for professional cleanings is just as true for maintaining good oral hygiene at home.
That’s why we recommend supplementing your brushing and flossing with things like the oral irrigation we talked about last time. Interdental brushes are great for breaking up biofilm (plaque) in hard-to-reach places. Massaging your gums with rubber tips helps increase the flow of blood and oxygen, making the environment less hospitable to harmful microbes.
But there’s one more tool we haven’t talked about yet: a tongue scraper.
Usually made of metal, plastic, or bamboo, a tongue scraper is a device that you simply drag down the length of your tongue, back to front, to remove bacteria and other debris.
Yes, you need to clean your tongue, too. Regularly.
That’s because things like dead skin cells and food particles can easily get trapped among all those little bumps that cover your tongue. (The clinical term for them is papillae.) They also provide a great breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
This is more than just a recipe for some very funky breath. Those microbes are easily spread to your gums and teeth. That means a higher risk of tartar buildup, decay, and gum disease.
A tongue scraper is a small investment in maintaining the healthiest mouth possible. It may even help prevent the transmission of systemic infections. One fascinating study that was done during peak COVID found that people who regularly cleaned their tongues were significantly less likely to pass along the coronavirus to other members of their household.
In fact, that was the ONLY behavioral difference in terms of viral transmission. Other studies have shown that tongue cleaning may similarly benefit respiratory health.
If you use a manual toothbrush, you may not even need to make the small investment in a tongue scraper. You can gently brush your tongue after you’ve finished brushing all of your teeth (after giving the brush a thorough rinsing, of course!). Your brush may even have a textured side opposite the bristles – texture that exists solely for the sake of tongue cleaning.
No matter the tool you use, here are the basics of how to clean your tongue thoroughly and become a true oral hygiene boss: