The How and Why of Cleaning Your Tongue

Approximately 25 percent of people worldwide struggle with bad breath.

Are you part of this group? If so, your tongue cleaning (or lack thereof) could contribute to the problem.

Not sure how to clean your tongue? Keep reading. Listed below are some cleaning techniques that will help you to support your tongue health.

Why Should You Clean Your Tongue?

You’ve made it this far without regular tongue-brushing. Why should you start doing so now?

The truth is that cleaning your tongue offers a lot of health benefits. Here are some of the most noteworthy reasons for adding regular tongue scraping or brushing to your oral hygiene routine:

Get Rid of Bacteria

Just like your teeth and gums, your tongue is also covered with bacteria. When you don’t clean your tongue regularly, there’s a good chance of bacteria building up in your mouth.

Bacteria buildup causes bad breath. It may also increase your risk of developing cavities and gum disease. If you don’t get rid of the bacteria, it’ll spread to your gums and could cause inflammation and periodontal issues.

Rinsing Isn’t Enough

Some people assume that they don’t need to clean their tongue because they rinse with mouthwash.

In reality, rinsing simply isn’t enough to get rid of the bacteria that cause bad breath and cavities. It might be a temporary refresher, but it won’t support long-term oral health in the same way that more thorough cleaning will.

It’s hard to kill bacteria with mouthwash alone because mouthwash only destroys the outer cells of the biofilm. The biofilm is the name for the microorganisms that stick to the tongue’s surface.

When you only rinse, the cells beneath the surface of the biofilm stick around. If you don’t get rid of them using a more abrasive cleaning method, you can still end up with bacteria buildup, bad breath, and tooth damage.

Food Will Taste Better

Who doesn’t want their food to taste as delicious as possible? If you aren’t cleaning your tongue, you might not be having the best experience every time you sit down to eat or take a drink.

When plaque and bacteria accumulate on the tongue, it dulls the tastebuds. This, in turn, makes it harder for you to taste your food the same way you’d be able to if your tongue was clean.

Tongue Brushing Boosts Immunity

Regular tongue brushing can also set you up for a stronger immune system.

Remember, the tongue is the first line of defense against bacteria and germs. When you brush your tongue and get rid of excess bacteria, you prevent that bacteria from being swallowed or absorbed into the body. If this happens over and over again, it can trigger an inflammatory response and make it harder for your immune system to fight off disease-causing foreign invaders.

Tongue Brushing May Prevent Chronic Disease

Poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. In pregnant women, it can also contribute to low birth weights and premature births.

Tongue scraping isn’t a magic prevention tool that will save you from these health issues. However, when you take good care of your tongue, teeth, and gums, you are setting yourself up for better long-term oral health.

Better oral health, in turn, can also improve your overall physical health. This is especially true when it’s combined with other practices like a healthy diet and regular exercise.

How to Clean Your Tongue

You want better oral health, better breath, and better general health. You’re also convinced that to accomplish these things, you should be cleaning your tongue.

How do you make sure it’s squeaky clean and minty fresh, though?

Start by choosing the right tongue cleaning tool. The two most popular options are a tongue scraper and a toothbrush.

Tongue Scraper

If you’re using a tongue scraper to clean your tongue, follow these steps:

  • Stick your tongue out as far as possible
  • Place the tongue scraper on your tongue, as close to the back as you can reach (without gagging)
  • Press down with the scraper, then pull it toward the front of the tongue
  • Rinse the tongue scraper under warm water
  • Spit out excess saliva that built up while scraping
  • Scrape a few more times to ensure your tongue is as clear as possible

Remember to clean your tongue scraper and place it in a safe, dry space for your next use. Scrape your tongue once or twice per day for best results.

This may be uncomfortable at first. The more you do it, though, the easier it’ll be.


Research shows that tongue scrapers tend to be more effective than toothbrushes for tongue cleaning. If you still want to clean your tongue with a toothbrush, though, you can do the following to get the most out of it:

  • Start with a soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Stick your tongue out as far as possible
  • Place your toothbrush on your tongue, as far back as you can reach without gagging
  • Pull the toothbrush forward and backward across the tongue, pressing down lightly
  • Spit out any saliva that shows up during the brushing
  • Rinse your toothbrush with warm water

The same as when you clean your tongue with a tongue scraper, it’s also best to clean your tongue with a toothbrush once or twice per day. Since cleaning with a toothbrush can be less effective, doubling up and cleaning twice per day may offer more noticeable results.

Time for Good Tongue Hygiene

Are you tired of bad breath and feeling like you’ve got a furry tongue? Now that you know how to clean your tongue, you never have to worry about this again.

Beyond regular brushing and tongue cleaning, there are plenty of other strategies you can use to maintain great oral hygiene, including regular exams and preventative care from a skilled dentist.

If it’s been a while since you had a cleaning or exam, we’re here for you at Westport Dental. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.