Tongue cleaners or scrapers are in my opinion one of the best tools against bad breath. As I have said a number of times, the number of bacteria in your mouth is colossal and a large majority of them sit on your tongue.
It was a great idea for toothbrush manufacturers to add a sort of tongue brush on the back of the toothbrush head and certainly helped make everyone more aware of the importance of brushing your tongue. In my opinion however, using the normal bristles is actually more effective that the slightly gimmicky tongue brush side, but using a tongue cleaner/tongue scraper takes this to another level.
They come in a few different shapes, sizes and materials- finding one that you like using is the key- they all do a pretty similar job.
They can be a simple metal scraper that you gently scrape across the surface of your tongue- this type looks more like a weapon than a dental tool.
If you live in Australia, my personal favorite is actually from ‘Priceline’ and consists of a brush on one side and a raised plastic edge on the other. (I posted one of these this back to my dad in England because he loves it so much).
In the morning after brushing, I use the tongue brush side first to loosen the yuckyness and then gently scrape that with the plastic side. You will be amazed at the rubbish that comes off- if you don’t normally brush your tongue, it might not smell too good.
Once daily is generally enough; in the morning to keep your tongue fresh. If I haven’t yet motivated you to go out and buy one, then let me tell you about a condition that first prompted me to start brushing my tongue.
I had a patient in the dental hospital many moons ago complaining of bad breath, on examination I noticed his tongue had what appeared to be a black growth on it- a condition known quite un-ironically as ‘black hairy tongue’.
The ominous looking black hairy appearance results from an overgrowth of bacteria.. yes bacteria (how lovely!) and sometimes, the papillae on the surface of the tongue. It is not dangerous or linked to oral cancer and generally the problem resolves on its own with some tongue brushing.
You might be thinking… well my tongue doesn’t look like that and you would be right; with a standard diet, the process of eating is often sufficient to prevent this build up and keep the tongue looking normal. Trust me though- grab a tongue brush and be amazed at how fresh and confident you feel afterwards.
The D&D’s of tongue brushing
- Do it in the morning after brushing your teeth
- Do stick your tongue out and reach as far back on the tongue as much as you can- this is where you get rid of all the ‘bad’ stuff
- Do repeat the scraping process a couple of times until little new gunk is coming off
- Do rinse the brush or scraper thoroughly between each scrape and afterwards.
- Don’t scrape too hard- firmly yes- but understand your tongue is covered in little taste buds that you can hurt if you put too much pressure. If your tongue bleeds you are doing it too hard. Have a break for a couple of days and then try again.