Tongue cleaning is an integral part of daily oral hygiene. It is extremely important for keeping our breath fresh.
In India this practice of tongue cleaning has been there for the last thousands of years. People used to do it with dental twigs – after brushing their teeth with the twig (neem, babool etc.) they would tear the twig into two parts — for using one part for tongue scraping. People must have kept this practice of tongue cleaning (with twig) alive in Indian villages, but i dont know the ground reality. So i am not sure about this aspect. However, i am quite sure about what the people living in urban areas are doing to keep their tongue clean.
At times i get so disappointed when the patients tell me that they have never cleaned their tongue. Some tell me with equal callousness that they do it with the bristles of a tooth brush only. Some smart souls just do this formality with the back side of head of a toothbrush. The companies have started making it somewhat roughened as you see in this picture. But i need to tell you that these are poor alternatives for proper tongue-cleaning using tongue scraper.
While writing this i am reminded of tongue hygiene practices of our times. I remember we used to use a fragile plastic which used to be straight to be folded in U-shape while doing tongue scraping. No dentist asked us to do that — when we saw our parents and siblings are doing it, so we also started. But my grudge against these poor quality straight plastic strips was that these used to break too often. After that tongue cleaning used to be resumed once new plastic strip used to arrive.
These days we have nice range of tongue cleaners. You can see in this photograph there are Stainless steel, Bronze tongue cleaners which come with different handles and for kids there are so many attractive pieces as you see here –it is gentle for small kids as smaller as 3-4 year olds.
I know your question. Tongue cleaning at 3-4 years of age! — of course it is very much needed. Rather we advise a new mom to clean her little baby’s tongue gently using a muslin cloth wrapped around her finger daily. This is required even when there are no teeth in the baby’s mouth. Doing this once daily gives the little one a sense of oral cleanliness- the feeling he would crave for the rest of his life!
There are some parts in India where they use rib of mango leaf for scraping their tongue. Remaining part of mango leaf is used for tooth cleaning. At times –just once in a while i have come across people using a spoon to get rid of the tongue coating.
Just now i glanced through a dental textbook to find something on this topic.
There are so many things which are not written in any textbooks. Secondly, are we following all the books written in text books? So, when the choice of method to be used for tongue cleaning is to be made, we have to see how our experience is. I had tried the roughened backside of a toothbrush for this purpose but it was a useless experience. Similarly, how can be one comfortable with tongue-cleaning using a toothbrush.
My free advice — if you are not regularly cleaning your tongue, at least make it a part of your daily routine from this day. You can use any good quality tongue cleaner — personally i use a bronze one though there is no reason for my preferance. They are hard to find in the market, so stainless steel tongue cleaners are equally good. Some use toughened type of plastics also –there is no harm as long as you are able to remove the tongue coating on daily basis. You will notice the freshness of breath and secondly, you will just forget to bring all those costly mouthwashes.
i am reminded of some persons telling me that they injure their tongue when using a tongue-cleaning. I tell them to be gentle with the process and secondly they need to ensure that it is good quality tongue cleaner –not just a thin strip of cheap steel which can abrade the tongue.
At times I am amazed at the promptness with which this coating gets deposited on the tongue. Daily tongue cleaning is really worth the effort —-so now it is 8:30 AM –time for you to get hold of your tongue cleaner or fetch one from a nearby store right now ——and i am heading towards mine!
Take care — happy tongue cleaning!