It’s hard to imagine life without a tongue. A most unique organ, the human tongue plays an integral role in our ability to speak clearly, taste, and prepare food for digestion.
The tongue also happens to be a haven for bacteria, accounting for at least half of all bacteria living within your mouth at any given moment.
These bacteria, which hide in the folds, ridges, and bumps of this unique organ, produce volatile sulfur compounds, the smelly substance responsible for bad breath.
Despite this, most Americans neglect the tongue when performing their oral hygiene regimen, choosing to focus only on brushing and flossing. Dr. Spada explains how tongue scraping is an essential part of preventive dental care in Sudbury, MA.
Scraping vs. Brushing: Which Is Best?
A study published in the Journal of Periodontology reveals that using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria from the surface of the tongue reduces the production of volatile sulfur compounds—the telltale ‘rotten egg’ smell associated with bad breath—by an impressive 75 percent, whereas using a toothbrush to clean the tongue reduces VSC production by only 45 percent.
One alternative, the specially designed tongue brush, produces results comparable to a scraper. More of a scrubber than a traditional brush, the tongue brush can be purchased separately; however, several toothbrushes feature a built-in tongue scrubber adjacent to the head.
So while using your toothbrush is better than nothing, scraping or using a tongue brush is most effective and should be performed at least twice daily, immediately before or after brushing and flossing.
Tips for Cleaning Your Tongue
- Always rinse your tongue scraper before and after each use
- Begin as far back on your tongue as possible, as this is where bacteria are usually concentrated, working forward
- Clean the sides and top of your tongue; it is not necessary to scrape the underside
- Thoroughly rinse your mouth when finished scraping your tongue
What If Bad Breath Persists?
Tongue scraping is a short-term solution for treating unpleasant breath. In some cases, patients experience bad breath, a bad taste, or a combination of the two even after brushing and flossing and throughout the day.
If this is the case, Dr. Spada recommends scheduling a dental appointment—especially if you have gone longer than six months since your last visit. Chronic bad breath may be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as periodontal disease or an oral infection requiring a root canal treatment.