The Most Effective Ways to Clean Your Tongue

Published on: 08/07/2021

Like a sponge, our tongue can absorb the many bacteria in our mouth. Are you cleaning your tongue properly? Find out how in this article.

We all know that brushing our teeth is not enough to protect our oral health  — we also need to floss once a day and see our dentist regularly. Some might even use mouthwash to control plaque and gingivitis. In addition, dental experts suggest that we limit our intake of foods that are rich in sugar and starches. Otherwise, we run the risk of cavities and other dental problems. 

However, even after doing all these, we might still be forgetting to properly clean one vital part of our mouth: our tongue. 

Why do we need to clean our tongue?

Just because our tongue doesn’t develop cavities doesn’t mean that it’s not targeted by bacteria. In fact, when it comes to absorbing bacteria in the mouth, our tongue is like a sponge that’s susceptible to over 700 different types of bacteria in the mouth.

When not properly cleaned, it can lead to dental problems such as bad breath and advanced gum disease. Worse, it can cause a yeast-like infection known as oral thrush — which are creamy-white lesions on the tongue and other parts of the mouth. 

Furthermore, it can also affect your sense of taste. When bacteria start to stick together on the surface of the tongue, they build a biofilm that can lock your taste buds. This alters the way you taste your food and drinks. 


What’s the best way to clean our tongue?

Research suggests that tongue scrapers are the best tools to use in cleaning our tongue. They have been proven effective in reducing levels of volatile sulfur compounds that cause halitosis (bad breath). 

These instruments may be made of plastic or metal, and are often shaped like a “V” with a rounded edge at the top. To clean your tongue using a tongue scraper, place the rounded end at the back of your tongue and start to apply pressure using the handle as you move the instrument towards the front of your tongue. Spit out any excess saliva and make sure to clean any debris from the tongue scraper by running it under warm water. Repeat this scraping procedure two to five more times. 

If you experience a gagging reflex, you may start scraping from the middle of your tongue and adjust accordingly as you get used to the sensation. It’s advisable to scrape your tongue once or twice a day. Ensure that your tongue scraper is properly cleaned after each use.


Are there other ways to clean our tongue?

If you don’t have an available tongue scraper, you can still clean your tongue using the following:

  • Toothbrush - with a soft-bristle toothbrush, brush forward and backward along your tongue using light strokes. You can choose to put a small amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush when cleaning your tongue. Healthline suggests brushing with one part hydrogen peroxide and five parts water if your tongue is discolored. 
  • Mouthwash - a therapeutic mouthwash containing active ingredients (such as chlorhexidine, triclosan, and cetylpyridinium chloride which destroy bacteria) can be helpful to fight bad breath and other dental problems. In most cases, they become all the more effective when combined with toothbrushing. 

No matter which method you choose, the simple act of cleaning your tongue can help improve your oral health. For it to be effective, it needs to be done regularly and alongside our daily dental hygiene practices. If you are still experiencing dental problems such as bad breath or a chronic dry mouth, it’s best to consult with your dentist.