In my experience, tongue cleaning is a practice that is not highly discussed or valued within the dental community.
While tongue cleaning is not at the forefront of most dentists’, hygienists’ or patients’ minds in the UK, it is commonplace among natives of Africa, Arabia, India, and a host of other regions. In these areas, the cleanliness of the entire mouth is emphasized. As such, tongue cleaning has become an integral part of the oral care routine.
So how does it begin to gain traction here in the UK? It starts by educating patients on the health benefits of proper tongue hygiene.
According to research, bad breath affects up to 50 percent of the adult population in the UK,. To fight oral malodor, the British public spends millions of pounds annually on gum, mints, and breath fresheners. These temporary solutions, however, only mask the underlying problem.
A study found that 80 to 90 percent of bad breath comes from bacteria on the tongue. In fact, the tongue is “the largest niche for microorganisms in the oral cavity … [providing] a large surface area favouring the accumulation of oral debris,” according to “Tongue coating and tongue brushing: a literature review,” published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene.
Focusing on patients’ halitosis concerns may be the most marketable way to present the benefits of tongue cleaning: Clean your tongue, have better breath. While it does not replace the tried-and-true brushing and flossing combination, proper tongue hygiene can complement patients’ oral care routines and contribute to healthier, cleaner mouths.
For many, the toothbrush presented to patients has served as an adequate tool, but toothbrushes are designed for the smooth surfaces of the teeth, not the uneven crevices of the tongue. Whatever your instrument of choice, it is time we begin accompanying our toothbrush gifts with a tongue cleaner in tow.