Rather than getting in a twist about smelly breath, treat your tongue to a fresh breath fix. When it comes to bad breath, experts agree that the tongue can often be the cause.
According to the Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (OHASA), daily tongue scraping should be part of a regular oral care routine. “The surface of the tongue has tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can accumulate. Removing the bacteria and debris on the tongue is one of the simplest ways to ensure fresh breath and a healthy mouth. Everyone, from children to older people, should incorporate it into their oral care daily,” says Stella Lamprecht, OHASA’s President.
What should you use?
“Ideally use a tool specially designed for the job like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner,” says Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth’s oral hygiene advisor. “Alternatively, use your toothbrush, or a metal teaspoon turned upside down; both are better than not doing it at all.”
“Start as far back as you can without gagging and gently scrape the tongue’s surface. Don’t use much pressure. It shouldn’t be painful or cause injury. Rinse the tool after each swipe and then gargle, using water or an alcohol-free mouthwash.”
In some cultures, cleaning the tongue has been a tradition since ancient times. For centuries, Indian Ayurvedic medicine has recommended daily scraping for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. More recently research has shown that cleaning the tongue improves breath odour and the sense of taste.
“Brushing correctly, flossing in-between the teeth and cleaning the tongue are the cornerstones of effective oral care,” says Dirna. “If plaque and food debris are not properly removed from the various parts of the mouth, they break down and release foul-smelling gases, irritate the gums and potentially cause disease.”
How to clean your tongue:
- Ideally use a tool specially designed for cleaning the tongue like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner. If you donít have one, use your toothbrush, or a metal teaspoon turned upside down.
- Clean your tongue each time you brush your teeth (twice a day), especially if you smoke or suffer from post-nasal drip.
- Gently scrape from as far back as you can, without gagging, to the front of the tongue. Breathing out as your clean the back of the tongue helps prevent gagging.
- Rinse the tool between each swipe.
- Gargle with water or an alcohol-free mouthwash.
- Clean the tongue before or after brushing and flossing – whichever you prefer. Cleaning the tongue at night can help prevent morning breath.
- For extra freshness use a small amount of toothpaste and gently brush the tongue before cleaning.
Effectiveness of mechanical tongue cleaning on breath odour and tongue coating: a systematic review published: 2010. Bibliographic details: Van der Sleen MI, Slot DE, Van Trijffel E, Winkel EG, Van der Weijden GA. Effectiveness of mechanical tongue cleaning on breath odour and tongue coating: a systematic review. International Journal of Dental Hygiene 2010; 8(4): 258-268. [PubMed]