Tongue Hygiene by Dr Mounica Maganti

Dentists across the globe educate the patients on oral hygiene; patients however interpret oral hygiene as brushing/flossing teeth which lead to improper and infrequent cleaning of tongue.

In this article importance of keeping good hygiene of our tongue will be explained in detail so that the readers understand the importance of regular cleaning of their tongue.

A healthy tongue mainly helps in perceiving taste via taste buds, mastication and deglutition, but a tongue which is not cleaned properly can serve as a source of microorganisms or bacteria inside oral cavity.




Tongue and general health of an Individual –

Tongue examination is often used by doctors to help in screening/diagnosing various diseases like :

  • Anemia
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Fungal diseases
  • AIDS
Often it is seen that tongue hygiene is overlooked by the patient and hence many times early signs are missed by doctors because of this poor maintenance of tongue.




How frequently should we clean our tongue? –

Twice a day along with brushing and flossing, removal of any plaque or debris from tongue is very important as it will keep on accumulating and can compromise the general health of the individual.

A question which is frequently asked by the patients is if their toothbrush contains a tongue cleaner on its back side, is it necessary to get a separate tongue cleaner?

Well a brush can be used as a cleaning tool for the tongue, a little toothpaste can also be used along to clean the tongue even better but scraping using a tongue cleaner is more efficient and this is an easy process, most commonly plastic or metal tongue scrapers are available which helps to clean tongue in every corner and side.

One of the most common outcomes of a poorly cleaned tongue is oral malodour (Halitosis) because during the breakdown of debris compounds like hydrogen sulfide and methyl-mercarpen are released which is the cause of this malodour, to avoid these kinds of situations following points should be kept in mind!

  • Clean your tongue using a brush/tongue scraper regularly.
  • Don’t apply too much pressure while cleaning the tongue; it can damage your tongue.
  • A pea sized amount of toothpaste can be applied on tongue prior to cleaning.
  • Tongue cleaner and mouth should be rinsed properly with warm water after every use.
  • Mouthwash can also be used occasionally after cleaning teeth and tongue.
  • If you are using front position of toothbrush to clean the tongue, keep a separate brush for teeth; don’t use the same brush for brushing teeth and cleaning tongue.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and this also helps to remove debris from tongue.
  • Avoid eating hot food which might damage your tongue.



GAGging problem with beginners:

When a person first start with taking care of their tongue by removal of debris and microbes using a brush or scraper, they try to reach too far inside mouth which initiates their gag reflex, which often elicits vomiting and this makes patients to quit cleaning their tongue in the early stages. Patient should carefully and delicately clean their tongue and do not try to push the cleaner down their throat, tongue should be cleaned in a way that the patient does not elicit a gag reflex.





Procedure of cleaning the tongue:

Cleaning the dorsal surface of tongue should be done along the other routine procedures like brushing and flossing, the following steps are suggested to be followed to clean the tongue.

  • Open your mouth in front of a mirror and place the tongue out of the mouth.
  • Visually inspect the tongue in the mirror and see which area needs more thorough removal of debris and microbes.
  • Place the tongue cleaner (Brush/scraper) as far as possible without eliciting gag reflex.
  • Apply light force and pull the cleaner from back to front, wash the debris collected on the cleaner with water and repeat this step if you can still see any debris on that part of tongue.
  • A mouthwash can be used occasionally after cleaning of teeth, gums and tongue is complete.




Tongue cleaning is often overlooked by many which cause various health problems and this unhygienic practice can sometime misleads a doctor examining the tongue by masking the signs of various health problems. One should understand the importance of this oral hygiene procedure and incorporate this into their daily routine.






Dr Mounica graduated from NTR University, India in 2014. She is actively involved in volunteering for various health camps and practiced dentistry in India at a Dental Hospital. Currently she is working as a pre-dental assistant in Texas.

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