Your teeth and gums aren't the only things you need to look after in your mouth to maintain good oral hygiene; your tongue also has a part to play. If your dentist notices that your tongue is not as clean as it might be, you may be advised to add brushing it to your hygiene mix. As well as keeping your tongue looking healthy, this also has some health benefits.

The Tongue and Bacteria

Your tongue can be an attractive place for the bacteria that like to live in your mouth. Over time, if you aren't cleaning your tongue, bacteria may build up on it. You may clean your teeth and gums well every day but, if you aren't also cleaning your tongue, you may well be leaving harmful bacteria in your mouth that you could easily get rid of.

Bad Breath and the Tongue

If bacteria make a home on your tongue, your mouth may start to smell bad. Although the tongue is not the only cause of bad breath, it's one you can easily control to make your mouth smell fresher. For example, Colgate recommends that you brush your tongue once a day, say when you're cleaning your teeth. This only adds a little time to your daily dental routine but could make your mouth smell better.

Tip: Although cleaning your tongue may help control bad breath, other factors such as smoking, alcohol and heavily flavoured foods may also add to the smells in your mouth. In some cases, bad breath may be caused by medical conditions such as diabetes or infections, in which case you should consult your dentist or doctor to get advice on what else you can do to make your mouth smell better.

Dealing With Black Hairy Tongue

Some people suffer from a harmless but cosmetically unattractive condition, known as black hairy tongue. According to the Better Health Channel, this happens when dead cells on the tongue stay on it rather than fall away as they should. This can leave your tongue with a black hairy-like coating, although in some cases your tongue may look yellow, white or even green.

If your dentist notices you have this problem, you'll be advised to start brushing your tongue every day to get rid of the coating. Again, this will make your mouth smell better; it will also get rid of the unsightly colouring on your tongue.

Tip: If you're a smoker, you may also notice that your tongue gets coated in gunk and may find it useful to brush it once a day.

What Kind of Brush to Use

You can use a regular toothbrush to clean your tongue; however, you may want to use a different one to the one you use to clean your teeth to avoid transferring bad smells and bacteria. Alternatively, you can buy specialist tongue brushes or even a tongue scraper. Scrapers simply scrape the gunky layer off the top of tongue rather than brushing it away.

Tip: It may feel weird when you start brushing your tongue, and you may gag a little as you brush at the back of your mouth until you get used to it. If you're using a tongue scraper, make sure to be gentle. If you're too rough, you may make your tongue sore or bleed a little.