There seems to be a hierarchy among most people when considering oral care: the teeth first, the gums second, and the tongue in a far distant third. But, your dentist wants you to know that this type of thinking is flawed because each part of your mouth has equal and great significance to your oral health. And he will reveal just how integral your tongue’s role is in maintaining this balancing act.
Why is the Tongue So Important to Your Oral Health?
Imagine your tongue as the walkway leading up to your front door. If you haven’t swept the walkway for quite some time, then it would be reasonable to expect debris to be carried into the house upon entry. This simple analogy explains why the tongue is so important to your oral health. It is the path that can’t be avoided.
Your tongue has little grooves on it called papillae. If not cleaned properly, then food particles and bacteria can get trapped between the bumpy grooves. The same intruders can be carried to the gums and teeth, and cause plaque buildup and gum disease. To prevent this, it’s imperative to learn how to clean your tongue the right way.
How to Clean Your Tongue
There are two primary ways to clean your tongue, brushing and scraping:
- Brushing – After brushing your teeth, be sure to gently brush your tongue from back to front to loosen debris and food particles so they can be rinsed away. So that your efforts won’t be in vain, be sure to also include your cheeks and the roof of your mouth. This will lessen the chance of residual bacteria being leftover to land on your tongue, teeth or gums again.
- Scraping – The other method for cleaning the tongue is scraping. The scraper tool is designed to glide along the tongue’s surface and remove mucus, bacteria and other debris. Put the scraper at the back of your tongue while sticking it out, and with even pressure, slide the scraper along the tongue until reaching the tip. Rinse the scraper, and repeat this action until you have covered the entire area.
Now you have a solid foundation to improve your oral hygiene and health. By cleaning your tongue, and brushing and flossing correctly, you are taking a holistic approach to your oral care. The next step is to visit your dentist for a cleaning and examination to ensure that you stay on track and maintain a healthy mouth for years to come.
About the Author
Dr. Neil Flenniken earned his bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Ohio State University and his D.D.S. from Howard University in Washington D.C. He has a Fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry and is an Associate Fellow at the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. He practices at Monarch Dentistry and can be reached for more information through his website.