Should You Brush Your Tongue?

Should You Brush Your Tongue?
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Wondering whether you should brush your tongue? We’ll tell you everything you need to know about keeping your tongue healthy and improving your oral health.

Eastern and oriental cultures have practiced tongue cleaning for centuries, according to the dental journal Oral hygiene – why neglect the tongue?.


Scraping your tongue is mentioned in old records as part of the 3000-year-old Ayurvedic medicine system in India, where it is still a regular part of their regimen today.

The appearance of the tongue in Traditional Chinese Medicine is used as an indicator of overall health, similar to a diagnostic tool to determine the root cause of a condition.

According to Oral hygiene: a history of tongue scraping and brushing, implements for oral and tongue cleanliness have been made from materials such as thin strips of wood, whalebone, and various metals.


According to a recent CDC report, 47.2 percent of adults aged 30 and older have periodontal disease.

Although tongue hygiene hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as gums and teeth, there is a growing body of evidence to help you decide whether tongue brushing is worth incorporating into your daily oral hygiene routine.

Should You Brush Your Tongue?

Cell Rep has a recent image of microbes coating the tongue. Fluorescence spectral imaging was used to investigate the organization of the tongue’s 20 billion microbes. The report aims to increase our understanding of the critical relationship we have with the oral microbiome that lives symbiotically within us.


These organisms form complex communities that form biofilms on the tongue, teeth, and gums.

Biofilms provide an important ecosystem for bacteria, and while some of these microbes benefit us, others can grow out of balance and form thick sticky coatings.

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According to The Role of Dental Plaque Biofilm in Oral Health, the nature of the oral biofilm creates a defense to protect itself, and if not removed regularly, it reaches ‘maturity’ and can become problematic, causing dental cavities, decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis.


Tongue Sticking Out

According to the study Tongue coating and tongue brushing: a literature review, a buildup of biofilm on the tongue is one of the most common causes of bad breath, also known as halitosis. According to the review, the amount of tongue coating in patients complaining of halitosis was significantly higher.

The tongue has a rough surface with different types of papillae, which are raised bumps that we can feel. These crevices can harbor food debris, bacteria, fungi, and dead cells.

It’s understandable that mouthwashes alone may not be sufficient to remove buildup on the tongue. Brushing makes sense in this situation because it helps to dislodge and remove oral debris.


Should You Use a Toothbrush to Clean Your Tongue?

Tongue brushing and tongue scraping were compared in the study Effect of Tongue Cleaning Methods and Oral Mutans Streptococci Level. The tongue cleaning tools used were a flat plastic tongue scraper and a nylon small-headed toothbrush.

It discovered that both methods were effective in reducing bacteria levels and concluded that the action of physical removal, as well as the instrument itself, should be prioritized.

Another study from Odontostomatol Trop discovered that tongue scraping could reduce the bacteria mutants streptococci and Lactobacilli that contribute to dental cavities and gum disease.


Patients in this study were given very specific instructions on how to clean their tongues and used a tongue scraper twice daily for at least two minutes per day for seven days.

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This was discovered to have a significant effect on bacterial reduction as well as oral halitosis.

Closeup on young woman cleaning tongue using toothbrush

Tongue scrapers and brushes of various types appear to be effective at removing buildup. According to a study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene, some scrapers are more likely than others to elicit the gag reflex.


To ensure regular practice, it may come down to personal preference and simple convenience.

Some toothbrush models, such as Sonicare electric toothbrushes, now include a tongue-brushing attachment that is flat and looks like a cross between a brush and a scraper.

What Does A healthy Tongue Look Like?

Our tongue is as unique as our fingerprint, according to Tongue 101: Facts, and it is the most flexible muscle in the body.


The color of a normal tongue is either pinkish or pink with a thin white coating, according to the study Tongue coating and salivary bacterial counts in healthy/gingivitis subjects and periodontitis patients.

Louise Langdon, an oral health expert at the Oral Health Foundation, told Live Science: “A healthy mouth will usually have a pink tongue. We don’t want any inflammation. Generally, anything that is red, white, or stands out is a sign that something needs to be investigated.”

899 tongue out

“Our tongues are always going to look different, depending on whether you’re a smoker, have medical conditions, or have a dry mouth.” Langdon added.


Langdon suggested that tongue cleaning is an important part of maintaining good oral hygiene: “The majority of people would use their own toothbrush. Depending on the manufacturer, some brushes will have a knobbled effect on the back of the toothbrush.”

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It was also advised not to brush or scrape the tongue aggressively as this could cause it to become dry and sore, and to clean it once a day.

What Happens If You Don’t Brush Your Teeth?

The first indication that something is wrong is discoloration of the tongue.


You may have heard of ‘black hairy tongue,’ a condition in which the papillae (those raised bumps on our tongue) become elongated and discolored as a result of factors such as poor oral hygiene, excessive coffee consumption, or certain medications.

Brushing the tongue appears to be a good preventative measure, as documented by A Novel, Simple, Frequent Oral Cleaning Method Reduces Damaging Bacteria in the Dental Microbiota, which addressed the impact of oral cleaning on biofilm formation before it reaches maturity, at which point we see a thicker coating on the tongue or feel the plaque biofilm on our teeth.

They introduced the concept of “frequent disruption of biofilm” and demonstrated that cleaning the gums, teeth, and tongue with an index finger, followed by rinsing the mouth with water after eating, was significantly effective in reducing bacteria.


partial view of smiling woman with white teeth sticking tongue out isolated on grey

Regular tongue brushing or scraping followed by rinsing may help to reduce the buildup of harmful bacteria that cause oral health issues.

Other factors, such as diet, water intake, and lifestyle, all play important roles in the oral microbiome’s health.

The focus is shifting to how we can further support beneficial microbes in our oral ecosystem through interventions such as probiotics and herbal mouthwashes.


Also, remember to clean your brush after each use!

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