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Updated on September 9, 2022

3 Best Ways to Clean Your Tongue At Home

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What are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Tongue?

Cleaning the tongue is a critical part of maintaining good oral hygiene. Many of the bacteria living on the tongue are good bacteria. But bad bacteria can accumulate on the tongue, contributing to:

  • Bad breath
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease 

Regularly cleaning your tongue can prevent dead skin cells and food particles from building up.

girl who just showered cleans tongue in front of mirror

3 Ways to Clean Your Tongue 

There are three main ways to clean your tongue:

1. Use a Tongue Scraper

The best way to clean the tongue is with a tongue scraper. A quality tongue scraper will have a head composed of a flattened or curved rim made of metal, plastic, or copper. Most drug stores carry tongue scrapers that cost $10.00 and under.

To use a tongue scraper:

  • Press the head on the back surface of the tongue
  • Draw the scraper forward, making sure to keep the rim of the scraper in contact with the tongue’s surface
  • Rinse the scraper once you’ve reached the front of the tongue
  • Repeat until clean

When scraping your tongue, you should see a thin layer of mucus-like liquid that may be white, yellow, or brown. Do not swallow it. 

For enhanced hygiene, leave the tongue scraper sitting head down in antibacterial mouthwash in between uses. 

2. Brush Your Tongue

Gently running your toothbrush over the tongue can also help remove harmful bacteria and debris.

Start by brushing the back of the tongue and slowly moving forward. Brush the tongue with a clean toothbrush to avoid spreading plaque, debris, and bacteria from the teeth onto the tongue. Rinse the mouth and toothbrush afterward.

3. Rinse Your Mouth

Using an antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwash or rinse can also clean the tongue. When rinsing, actively swish the liquid back and forth over the tongue’s surface. You can use your cheek muscles to coat the entire tongue. 

Most mouthwashes and rinses are more effective if you use them for at least 60 seconds. Never swallow mouthwash.

Benefits of Cleaning Your Tongue

Putting in the extra effort to clean the tongue can offer several perks. Common benefits of cleaning the tongue include:

  • Fresher breath
  • Better overall oral hygiene
  • Reduced risk of oral health issues like tooth decay and gum disease 
  • Reduced risk of systemic diseases like heart disease
  • Improved sense of taste by keeping taste-detecting tiny bumps called papillae clean

How Often Should You Clean Your Tongue?

Like brushing your teeth, it’s best to clean the tongue twice daily as part of your oral hygiene routine.

But if the tongue becomes irritated, try cleaning it less aggressively or once daily. If you’re using a toothbrush to clean the tongue, use a soft-bristled or a child’s one to avoid irritation.

Signs You Need to See a Dentist or Doctor 

If your tongue looks or feels different than normal, talk to a dentist or doctor. Also, talk to a healthcare professional if you notice:

  • Bleeding from the tongue
  • White patches on the tongue
  • Black or red discoloration 
  • Tongue sores that last longer than 2 weeks
  • Unexplained pain in or around the tongue
  • A hairy or mottled texture on the tongue

A dentist can clean your tongue during regular teeth cleanings. They may also prescribe an extra-strength mouth rinse to use at home.

Summary

Many of us don’t think about it, but the tongue, like the rest of your mouth, requires cleaning to stay healthy. The best way to clean the tongue is to use a tongue scraper, but you can also gently use a clean toothbrush, antibacterial mouthwash, or rinse.

If you notice that your tongue becomes discolored, has uneven patches, becomes painful for no clear reason, or has sores that don’t heal on their own, talk to a dentist or doctor.

4 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 9, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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