Exercise and good nutrition keep your body healthy. Brushing and flossing keep your teeth healthy. What about the health of your tongue? Believe it or not, your tongue’s health is important to your oral health.
Why is your tongue important?
Like other essential body parts, the tongue is considered a sensory and digestive organ equipped with several functions. Beyond just being the accessory of a silly or sassy gesture, your tongue helps you to:
- Eat and drink: The tongue allows you to consume foods and liquids by moving them to either your teeth to chew or the back of your throat to swallow.
- Taste: Small bumps known as papillae and taste buds occupy the dorsal mucosal surface, allowing you to taste.
- Digest: By moving food from the mouth to the pharynx, the tongue is the first step in the digestion process.
- Speak: Due to its agility and flexibility, the tongue works with the lips and teeth to produce “more than 90 words per minute.”
- Clean: The tongue also helps keep your mouth clean by sweeping the internal surface and pushing debris to the throat.
How to care for your tongue
Maintaining proper tongue health is just as important as caring for any other part of your body.
Did you know that your tongue is covered in bacteria? The tongue contains just as much bacteria as our teeth, making it a part of the mouth that should be cared for daily. However, unlike your teeth, an unwashed tongue does not put you at risk of cavities. It can lead to chronic bad breath, oral thrush, dulled taste buds, and even periodontal disease.
Although your tongue can self-clean, it’s essential to take these extra steps to keep your tongue clean and healthy:
- Brush regularly: Brushing your teeth twice a day is essential for tongue health and overall good oral hygiene. Don’t neglect your tongue when brushing, as it could lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease. When brushing your tongue, start by placing the brush at the back of your tongue and lightly moving the toothbrush back and forth in a brushing motion.
- Rinse thoroughly: After cleaning your tongue, take a sip of water and swish it around your mouth to rinse away any remaining bacteria left over from cleaning.
- Drink water: We know that drinking water regularly is essential to keeping your body functioning. Drinking water also helps keep your tongue healthy and clean by moving any food or debris particles into the digestive system.
- Try a tongue scraper: Although not a necessary step in your oral care routine, many people enjoy using tongue scrapers to remove mucus on the top of the tongue. Start by placing the tongue scraper at the back of the tongue and gently pulling forward. It’s important to use enough pressure to successfully remove any build-up but not to push so hard that your tongue begins to feel sore.
*Updated June 2023