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Does Your Child Need to Brush His Tongue?

Girl Sticking Out TongueYou will hear your pediatric dentist in Olathe talk a lot about how important it is for your little one to brush and floss his teeth every day to protect them against cavities. But did you know that he should also brush his tongue, as well as his teeth? The truth is, kids and adults who don’t brush their tongue regularly are putting their teeth and overall oral health at risk. 

The Fascinating Tongue

Our tongues may not seem that fascinating, but to your pediatric dentist in Olathe, these muscles are actually quite interesting and important. Not only are our tongues one of the strongest muscles in our bodies, but they also help us do many useful everyday tasks such as speak, chew, and swallow. Tongues also have about 10,000 taste buds that allow us to taste every bit of our favorite foods. But these taste buds are also really great places for bacteria to hide. If those bacteria are not removed regularly, they can start to negatively affect oral health. 

What Happens if You Don’t Brush Your Tongue? 

Our tongues are made up of tons of tiny bumps called papillae. These papillae create peaks and valleys on our tongues and give bacteria the perfect place to settle. If the bacteria aren’t removed, it can cause some unwanted side effects such as: 

  • Bad Breath – One of the most common side effects of not brushing your tongue is bad breath. While bad breath can be caused by a lot of different things, an unclean tongue can be to blame. 
  • Decreased Sense of Taste – Everyone loves to eat their favorite foods, especially kids. But when a tongue is not properly cared for, bacteria can coat our taste buds and decrease our sense of taste. This means that our favorite foods may not taste quite as good as they once did. 
  • Black, Hairy Tongue – Even though this sounds scary and gross, black, hairy tongue is a very real thing that can happen if you don’t brush your tongue. This discoloration happens when food and drink particles aren’t removed from the surface of the tongue and essentially stain those tiny papillae. Even though this can be scary, it should go away on its own once your child gets into the tongue-brushing habit. 

How Should Your Child Clean His Tongue? 

It’s important that your child brushes his tongue every time he brushes his teeth. This will give him the cleanest mouth. But it’s important to note that he doesn’t need to scrub his tongue hard, and, in fact, shouldn’t. A gentle brushing from the back of the tongue to the front and from side-to-side will do just fine. However, patients with a strong gag reflex may have trouble with this method. If this is the case, try using a tongue scraper that you can buy at any pharmacy. It’s just as effective as brushing but may not trigger the gag reflex as much as a toothbrush. 

Making sure that your child brushes his teeth, as well as his tongue, is crucial for caring for overall oral health. Of course, seeing your pediatric dentist in Olathe at least every six months is also necessary to further protect against decay and cavities.

If it’s been longer than six months since your child’s last visit, we welcome you to schedule an appointment today.  

LeBlanc & Associates Dentistry for Children has pediatric dentists throughout Johnson County including in Overland Park, Prairie Village, Olathe, and Kansas City. We’re always accepting new patients. Give us a call today!