Tongue Cleaning. Is it a thing? – Part 2

Woman sticking her tongue, questioning a thought

Tongue Cleaning. Is it a thing? – Part 2

Tongue Cleaning. Is it a thing? (Part 2)

Tongue cleaning…is it a thing? By Dr Viren Vithlani, Co-Founder at MyMouth & Specialist Periodontist


Healthy mouth, healthy body
One of the things that is really important to us as well as being sustainable – is health!

Not just oral health, but general health and living a better life. So you must be thinking, what does oral health and general health have to do with tongue cleaning? And often the reaction we get is: tongue cleaning – really? Is it a thing?

Bleeding gums, bad breath, tongue cleaning – these are some of the things that are kind of taboo topics, that we don’t really talk about but impacts us massively and stops us from feeling and looking good. A lot of people forget that in order to look good (and have straight, white teeth like everyone wants these days, we need to be healthy). We need a healthy smile and healthy gums!

What should my gums look like?
Healthy gums look pink in colour, they’re firm and do not bleed. Unhealthy gums are often red, swollen, can be sore or tender to brush and may bleed when you brush. If your gums bleed, it means they are inflamed, and it may be an early warning sign of gum disease. If you have gum disease, the gums (or pockets as we call them) are effectively open, which means bugs can get underneath and cause inflammation, triggering our body’s immune defences to kick in. It’s this process that causes bone loss and eventually, tooth loss. So think about it this way, If your skin was bleeding or even your eye, would you do something about it? If you have bleeding gums, just because you can’t see it you should do something about it and see your dentist, hygienist, or therapist. If you have a good oral hygiene routine, you can prevent it! As a Specialist Periodontist, I often say to patients that it is a bit of an unfair disease as it can be silent and not cause any pain, and the only thing you may notice is teeth drifting, gaps appearing, bad taste or a bad breath.

What is the impact of gum health on general health?
And what about the impact it has on our general health? Did you know that every time we brush our teeth, bacteria enter our bloodstream. We call that a ‘bacteraemia’ – that’s normal, it happens in everyone. But if you have gum disease, there’s pockets, the gums are open more bugs get in. Our body’s immune system doesn’t like it and we get a bigger response in our body which puts pressure on other parts of our body.

What is the impact of gum disease and your heart?
Like our heart! Not many people know that gum disease is linked with heart disease. If you have gum disease and you have some heart problems or high blood pressure, you could have a higher risk of getting more complications from heart disease, like heart attacks, heart failure and even stroke.

What is the impact of gum disease and diabetes?
One of the strongest links is with diabetes. If you have gum disease, you are 20-30% more likely to develop pre-diabetes or diabetes and vice versa. If you have uncontrolled diabetes, gum disease can affect your sugar (glycaemic) control, and you are more likely to get gum disease (2-3x) and more likely to get more severe disease and lose teeth.

What is the impact of gum disease and Covid-19?
And what about this one – a 2021 study that looked at Covid-19 patients with gum disease, showed that patients with gum disease were 3.5x more likely to get complications of Covid, 4.5x more likely to require ventilation and 8.8x more likely to die from Covid complications.

Is there a link between gum disease and Alzheimers?
Some studies even linked gum disease to Alzheimer’s as some bacteria involved in gum disease and their proteins were found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. An interesting one, and more data needed!

Earlier we mentioned ‘bad breath’ (halitosis) as a possible sign of gum disease. Should we be worried? How many of us talk about this to each other? To our friends, to our family? Or even our partners? It’s not really a topic of conversation for the dinner table or a night out! is it? It’s embarrassing, what do we say, do we say anything, could it just be last nights curry? Or morning breath? Maybe it’s just ‘mask breath’. Or is it me?

What are the causes of bad breath?
There are lots of causes for Bad Breath, and 90% of the causes originate in the mouth. So from not cleaning your tongue, not brushing between your teeth to having gum disease are common reasons. Bacteria stagnate in the crevices between the teeth and in the gum pockets, or there may be decay or infections in the mouth so it’s important to get it checked. If you have a diet that is high in carbohydrates and sugars that won’t help either! Smoking is another cause and it’s not just the nicotine but the tar that causes bad breath. Alcohol – we all know how it feels after a hangover, and alcohol dehydrates the mouth, making bad breath even worse. Drinking plenty of water is one of the simplest things we can do And of course if simple causes can’t be managed, then may need to see your doctor.

And we are going to talk little bit about the most common cause – a tongue coating. There’s over 1000 different types of bacteria in our mouth. What’s more is most of these bugs nestle onto your tongue. If we let these bugs stagnate on our tongue, they release something called volatile sulphur compounds (VSC’s). It’s no wonder, that this accounts for 51% of bad breath! A healthy tongue looks pink in colour, and if we don’t clean our tongue, a white or yellow coating forms. If you look under a microscope, you will see the tongue has the potential to harbour millions of bugs, with fissures and crypts creating a huge surface area for food debris and bacteria to build up. It’s a bit like a 1970s era shag carpet, so it can get quite filthy! And the greater the thickness of the coating, the more bugs , the worse the bad breath. And…what’s more, taking us back to what we were talking about earlier …. some of the bacteria that live on the tongue contribute to gum disease. It’s one of the reasons why we recommend patients NOT to clean their tongue with their toothbrush.

So that brings us back to the original question – Tongue cleaning…. really? Is it a thing? Believe it or not, people have been cleaning their tongues for 1000s of years and it was first recommended in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Cleaning your tongue is an important part of your oral hygiene routine. It reduces bad breath by up to 75% so it’s one of the best ways of reducing those horrible smells, And there’s more benefits! Removing the bugs and that coating means that your taste buds are working properly, improving your sense of taste, so you can feel more confident!
So keep your tongue looking good and feel more confident, that your mouth is healthier.

How do we clean our tongue? How many of us use our toothbrush? We can just use our toothbrush, right? Remember, some of the bacteria that contribute to gum disease live on the tongue, so using a toothbrush to clean your tongue, means that you are transferring bacteria around the mouth. So, it is better and more comfortable to use a tongue cleaner. Ours is called the JiBee, which means ‘tongue cleaner’ in ancient language of Sanskrit. It’s been designed by dentist, specifically reduce the gag reflex. You can use it once or twice per day, before or after you brush your teeth. Rinse it after each use and you can even put the JiBee in the dishwasher every so often to keep it extra clean. It lasts for a long time so it’s perfect for the planet!

So the question shouldn’t be – tongue cleaning, is it a thing? But instead… Do you JiBee?

1 Comment
  • Exodus
    Posted at 18:09h, 21 January Reply

    Tongue cleaning definitely is a thing! Remembering that bacteria and others from tongue can cause teeth problems and therefore health problems. I think falling out of teeth because of a lack of tongue cleaning can happen. A friend of mine had a single tooth restoration because of that.

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