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Bad Breath? Try Cleaning Your Tongue!

By HERWriter
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Try Cleaning Your Tongue to Get Rid of Bad Breath Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

You probably know that you should brush your teeth twice a day. But what about your tongue?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is typically caused by bacteria in your mouth. When you eat, tiny particles of food remain in your mouth. If you don’t do something to get rid of them, they can decay and start to smell unpleasant, which causes bad breath.

Tooth brushing and flossing are two key steps for good dental hygiene. But when it comes to getting rid of bad breath, cleaning your tongue may be the most important thing you can do.

Unless you have another health issue affecting your tongue, the front part nearest the tip probably looks pink and healthy. When you speak or swallow, the front of the tongue rubs against the hard palate on the roof of your mouth. This friction wipes off most bacteria from the front of the tongue, helping it stay relatively clean.

If you look at the back of your tongue (further into your mouth) you may see a white or brownish film on the surface. This part of the tongue does not have contact with the hard palate or other hard surfaces so odor-causing bacteria can accumulate as a film on the tongue.

Cleaning the tongue, especially the back part, can be an important step in getting rid of bad breath. You can use a soft tooth brush or a tongue scraper to remove bacteria, leftover food particles, and dead cells from your tongue.

Experts recommend gently brushing from the back of your tongue toward the tip. This can be done with or without toothpaste, depending on your preference.

Be aware that touching the back of your tongue near your throat may trigger a gag reflex. Since the back of the tongue typically has a larger concentration of bacteria, try to work through the gag reflex to clean the tongue’s surface as best you can.

Make it a habit to brush your tongue along with your teeth at least twice a day for best results.

If you have questions about brushing your tongue or bad breath, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist.


Animated-Teeth. Treating bad breath – Tongue cleaning. Web. December 22, 2014.

Animated-Teeth. What does it take to cure bad breath? Web. December 22, 2014.

WebMD. Oral Care: Brushing the Tongue. Web. December 22, 2014.

Mayo Clinic. Bad Breath? Brush your tongue! Web. December 22, 2014.

Reviewed December 23, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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