In “Do I Have Bad Breath? Part 1 – The Causes of Bad Breath” we discussed the main cause of bad breath is from bacteria and yeast by-products called volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs).  These bacteria can contribute to dental decay, gingivitis (gum disease), and periodontitis (gum and bone disease.  The bacteria that cause bad breath can be found anywhere in the mouth but the highest concentrations are around the teeth and gums and especially coating the tongue.

Good oral hygiene habits of effective twice daily tooth brushing, the use of floss and interdental brushes to access those undisturbed places between the teeth every day (ideally twice a day), regular attendance for professional oral hygiene visits at the dentist and the initial and ongoing treatment of periodontal disease and decay will certainly decrease bad breath.  However, research suggests the largest source of bacteria that contributes to bad breath is located on the tongue.  So to adequately address the cause of bad breath people need to also add in tongue cleaning to their daily oral hygiene routine.

History of Tongue Cleaning

Tongue cleaning is not a new idea and is still used by natives of Africa, India and South America. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Indian discipline of Ayurveda have advocated cleaning of the tongue for thousands of years. In TCM, the tongue is used as a diagnostic tool to assess the health of the body and strength of the digestion, and in Ayurvedia, tongue scraping or Jihwa Prakshalana is a practice that is advised to be performed daily upon awakening to remove ama, or digestive toxins and therefore preventing the toxins from being reabsorbed back into the system. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is thought that by removing the coating of the tongue, the tongues’ pores and taste buds open, allowing it to function effectively, improving taste and digestion.

Treatment of Bad Breath

A normal tongue is seen as being a healthy reddish pink colour with a very thin white coat, which may be more pronounced in the morning.  The research of both Eastern and Western medicine both agree on removing the bacterial tongue coating regularly to improve the health of the mouth and reduce mouth odour.

Research has identified the best way to remove the coating is to scrape the tongue rather than brush it, as this dislodges and removes more debris. Specially designed tongue scrapers can be purchased from some pharmacies or online – either a flexible strip with corrugated edges or more rigid designs are available.  If you want to start cleaning your tongue straight away, simply using a teaspoon placed upside down on the tongue to remove the white bacterial coating.  Using a toothbrush to brush the tongue tends to stimulate a gag reflex more easily, so is not generally recommended.

To scrape the tongue, extend the tongue and place the scraper as far back on the tongue as comfortable without triggering the gag reflex. Using a long stroke, gently pull the scraper forward so that it removes the unwanted bacterial coating on the tongue. Rinse the scraper and start again until satisfied that the tongue surface is clean and no more coating is being removed by the scraper.

If you would like any more information please contact us Avenue Dental.