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How to Take Care of Your Tongue

By Mina Levi DDS, 11/21/2013

We all have been told over and over again how important it is to brush and floss your teeth, and even how using mouthwash is great for destroying germs. One thing that isn’t emphasized enough is how to take care of our tongue, leaving questions such as, “is my tongue getting clean with just mouthwash?” and “does my tongue need to be cleaned separately?” The tongue is one of the strongest muscles in the body relative to size, and helps us speak, eat and drink throughout our entire lives. We think that deserves some recognition and that our tongue deserves to be cleaned and taken care of properly. Visiting the Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi DDS can be helpful with getting familiar with the proper tongue cleaning techniques and routines. Below we discuss the nature of the tongue and how to properly clean it.


Understanding the Tongue

Dentist San Francisco Tongue


The tongue is a mysterious, wriggly muscle that lives in our mouths and although we use our tongues every day almost constantly, many people don’t know much about the tongue. The tongue is covered with papillae and taste buds (receptors for taste), which allow it to be the primary organ of taste and helps us manipulate food for eating. The tongue is very sensitive since it is supplied immensely with nerves and blood vessels, which is why it is so painful when we accidentally bite down on it. Not only is the tongue used for eating, but it also functions in creating sounds and words. For example if you hold your tongue between your fingers and try to complete a sentence, you will notice that not only can you not produce the words and sounds that you want to, but also your tongue will contract and fight against your fingers slightly to try to make the correct sounds. Another very important function of the tongue is a natural toothbrush. The saliva that keeps the tongue moist has antibodies and proteins that clean up the bacteria in the mouth, and the tongue can manipulate itself into many positions and areas in the mouth which allows it to detect and remove bits of food that are left over from our last meal.


Dentist San Francisco Tongue Map


The tongue has what is called a “tongue map”, which shows that different areas of the tongue are more sensitive to different tastes. Contrary to popular belief, these areas of the tongue are not completely secluded to one particular taste, but different areas of the tongue have different thresholds for sensitivity to particular tastes. The tip of the tongue (4) is known for the sweet taste and the sides of the tongue toward the tip (3) are known for the salty taste. The sides of the tongue toward the back of the tongue (2) are known for the sour taste and the back area of the tongue (1) is known for the bitter taste.




The papillae and taste buds in the tongue are very sensitive and are what help us taste food at all. However, if the tongue is not cleaned properly, build up can cover up endings of the taste buds and dull the sensitivity, making it more difficult for the tongue to taste foods. Also, an unclean tongue can cause very bad breath and allow more bacteria to linger in the mouth, leading to other problems such as plaque build-up on the teeth and cavities. But, how are we supposed to clean the tongue? Here are a few good tips:


Dentist San Francisco Tongue Scraper

1. Get a tongue-cleaning device. These tongue-cleaning devices usually have a handle similar to a toothbrush but the tip is a triangle or oval shape with a large hole in the center, similar to an enlarged, widened eye-hole of a needle. You can find these devices at grocery stores and online, or you can get one through the Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi DDS. Some toothbrushes have a textured back designed for scrubbing of the tongue, but this doesn’t work as well as getting a separate tongue scraper.  




2. Scraping the tongue. In the morning before eating or drinking anything, take the tongue-cleaning device and place it on the surface of the tongue towards the back. Then firmly but gently press the tip of the device and then “drag” the tip from the back of the tongue to the front. The residue you’ve cleaned off of your tongue will build up on the device, so you will need to rinse it off after each scraping. Repeat this process multiple times until the entire tongue has been scraped with the device.  

3. Rinse. After the tongue scraping is completed and you have cleaned off your tongue-cleaning tool, rinse your mouth thoroughly with mouthwash. This will wash away any of the build-up that still remains in the mouth, and will also clean away bacteria in the rest of the mouth.

4. Repeat! The most important part of cleaning your tongue is to continue to clean it and make it part of
your every day routine.

5. Cleaning Your Tongue Scraper. Once every two weeks, soak your tongue-cleaning device in denture cleaner or a hydrogen peroxide-water solution to ensure that it remains sanitary.

For more information about the tongue cleaning process or how it affects your overall oral health, visit the Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi DDS on the web at or give us a call at (415) 513-5066.

Topics: Dentist San Francisco, Oral Health, Tongue Cleaning, Teeth Cleaning, Tongue, Oral Bacteria, Dental Plaque, Tongue Scrapers

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