Wake up in the morning, brush. Before going to bed, floss and brush (or vice versa).
You know the drill.
The importance of daily oral healthcare has been drilled (pun intended) into your mind for as long as you can remember. And you have religiously followed this advice for your own good. In fact, you also use a mouth rinse to complement your flossing and brushing.
- But why do you still sometimes wake up in the morning with foul-smelling breath?
- You do go to your biannual dental appointments, too, including ones for teeth cleaning.
- But wait, how about a tongue scraper – do you have one? More importantly, are you using one?
What’s a tongue scraper?
Also referred to as a tongue cleaner, a tongue scraper is a dental hygiene device specially designed for effectively cleaning the tongue. This is accomplished by gently scraping over the surface on the upper part of the tongue to remove trapped food debris, microorganisms, dead epithelial cells and saliva.
The reason for this, says a trusted cosmetic dentist in Plantation, Florida, is that the physical characteristics of the tongue surface and the lingual papillae make this area an ideal repository for tooth pathogens and gum disease-causing bacteria.
So instead of having a healthy pinkish color, the tongue may take on a whitish or differently-colored coating due in part to diet, a decrease in salivary flow or inefficient oral hygiene, or a combination of these factors.
Aside from tongue cleaners, some people use tongue brushes or their regular toothbrush, or even a clean spoon to accomplish the same thing. Some toothbrush companies have also recently added a tongue cleaning mechanism on the other side of their toothbrushes.
Just know, however, that dedicated tongue cleaning implements have been proven to remove 30 percent more volatile sulphur compounds (that can contribute to bad breath) normally found on the tongue compared to a soft-bristled toothbrush or other alternatives.
Factors that contribute to halitosis
As mentioned earlier, even if you have stayed on top of your oral care routine through the years, you may still have occasional bouts of bad breath in the morning (or at any time of the day) or halitosis due to any of the following reasons:
- Dry mouth
- Poor dental hygiene
- Acid reflux
- Trapped food particles from smelly foods like onions, garlic and other spices
- Respiratory infections
By adopting tongue cleaning as part of your daily oral care routine, you may get to reduce the incidence of bad breath or eradicate it altogether as long as there is no other underlying medical condition behind your bad breath.
Things to remember when using a tongue cleaner
Whether you’ve been cleaning your tongue for quite some time or you’re still a tongue cleaning neophyte, it’s important to consider the following:
- Always rinse your tongue cleaner before and after using it.
- When cleaning, it is ideal to start in the middle of the back of the tongue. If you happen to be sensitive or have a strong gag reflex, do not attempt to start cleaning too far back. Start closer to the middle section and gradually clean farther back once you get habituated to tongue cleaning.
- Ensure you stick your tongue as comfortably far out as you can, hold firm and gently scrape from the back to the front tip.
- You should aim to clean the entire tongue surface, including the sides of your tongue.
- Use a clean washcloth or tissue to remove debris caught in the cleaner after each scrape.
- Rinse your mouth after your tongue cleaning session.
Tongue cleaners come in plastic and metal forms.
Although cleaners made of metal are usually more expensive than their plastic counterparts, they are generally more durable. However, choosing a tongue scraper that works best for you is a good rule of thumb.
You may find, after comparing products, that you are more comfortable with a certain type of tongue cleaner which others may not like as much.
However, what’s important is for you to find a tongue cleaner that will effectively complement your daily oral care routine so you not only lose the bad breath, but also keep smiling a bright, healthy smile.