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How to Clean Your Tongue

Bad breath despite constant brushing? Your tongue may be the source.

Bacteria is to Blame

Naturally-occurring bacteria in our mouths mix with food particles and create a biofilm called plaque. We brush and floss our teeth each day to remove this biofilm in an effort to keep our teeth and gums healthy and breath fresh. Many of us may also use a mouthwash to help kill off bacteria lingering on our gums and cheeks that the toothbrush or floss did not reach, yet many of us pay little attention to the tongue.

Our tongues are not completely smooth, with taste buds, ridges, and cracks, so bacteria-filled biofilm can stick to the surface and get into the cracks of the tongue. Just as bacteria and food debris left on/in your teeth and gums can cause an odor, bacteria and food debris stuck on/in the tongue can also cause bad breath.

How to Clean Your Tongue

Cleaning your tongue should NOT be painful and can be done easily with your soft-bristled toothbrush or by using a tongue scraper.

If using a Toothbrush:

  • Add a small amount of toothpaste to your toothbrush
  • Using gentle, but firm pressure, brush your tongue with a back-and-forth motion, starting from the back of the tongue and working toward the front
  • Rinse your mouth (you can use a mouth rinse) to remove loosened debris/bacteria
  • Rinse the toothbrush

If using a Tongue Scraper:

  • Place the scraper at the back of your tongue and gently pull it forward, toward the front of the tongue
  • Repeat the process several times, pulling the tool from different angles
  • Rinse your mouth (you can use a mouth rinse) to remove loosened debris/bacteria
  • Rinse the tongue scraper to keep it clean

Once you have finished cleaning your tongue, you should be able to notice that all of the discolored debris has vanished, leaving your tongue a clean and healthy pink color! If you have questions or concerns, make sure to discuss them with your dentist or hygienist during your routine dental visit.

How Often Should I Clean My Tongue?

As bacteria multiply quickly, it's best to keep it at bay by taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue after brushing, twice a day.