How to Clean Your Tongue Correctly

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Everyone knows for the best oral hygiene you should be brushing your teeth twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. So, shouldn’t it be important to clean your tongue each and every day too? Just like bacteria and debris can build up on and in between your teeth, bacteria can also build up on your tongue too. With the surface of the tongue being covered in small bumps called papillae and within the grooves of these bumps bacteria can be collected, along with dead skin and old food particles. This bacteria that becomes trapped on the tongue can be one of the key causes in bad breath (halitosis) and any discolorations of the tongue.

Rinsing your tongue with either water or mouthwash simply won’t work when trying to clean the bacteria and debris build ups. Due to the biofilm on the tongue, or group of microorganisms, physically removing the build ups is the only way to remove them.

So, without further ado here are the two main methods of correctly cleaning your tongue.

How to clean your tongue correctly.


To clean your tongue correctly by brushing you should use a moistened toothbrush, or brush designed especially for the tongue, gently working in circular motions. To begin brushing your tongue start at the back and then work forward towards the opening of the mouth. Brush the entirety of the tongue using a small amount of pressure before rinsing with mouthwash or water.

Remember not to brush too hard as to avoid breaking the skin on the tongue, or causing irritation/ swelling. It is best to brush the tongue after brushing your teeth, making use of the leftover toothpaste on the brush and inside the mouth. Perform this method at least once per day, or ideally twice after brushing the teeth each time.


Another method for cleaning your tongue is using a tongue scraper. This method gives the tongue a more thorough cleaning as it gently peels the mucus layer of debris from the tongue. Simply place the scraper on the surface of the tongue, starting at the back and making your way towards the front of the mouth apply a gentle pressure. Rinse the device between each scrape for best results.

It is important to work slowly and gently when using a tongue scraper. Applying too much pressure or being too vigorous with the device can cause the tongue to become sore or even bleed in some cases. Concentrating on the centre of the tongue is a good idea as this is where the majority of the bacteria and debris buildups form.

You can perform this type of tongue cleaning any time of the day, so long as it is performed once per day.

I can’t stop gagging while cleaning my tongue?

Sometimes cleaning your tongue can trigger unwanted gag reflexes. To combat these unwanted reflexes simply try cleaning your tongue even slower than before until you become used to the sensation. One easy trick to remember is when you begin to get closer to a sensitive part of the tongue, try to relax the muscle completely and exhale deeply.  By exhaling this should override the gag reflex, allowing you to carry on without the unpleasant gagging response.

Other ways of improving the experience are:

  • If using a brush to clean your tongue, try wetting with warm water to soften the bristles.
  • Start at the front of the tongue and make your way backwards.
  • Extend your tongue as far out of your mouth as possible.
  • Take deep breaths and control your breathing as much as possible.

Still suffer from bad breath problems? Ensure your oral health by doing these key things.

Bad breath is a common problem, affecting around 1 in 4 people on a regular basis

Bad breath is a common problem, affecting around 1 in 4 people on a regular basis. A number of issues can cause bad breath in the mouth, these include:

  • Poor oral hygiene is one of the main causes of bad breath.
  • In some rarer cases gum disease.
  • Consuming strongly flavoured food such as: onions, garlic, peppers and/ or spicy meats.
  • Smoking can result in bad breath.
  • Consuming alcohol.
  • Illnesses or infections.
  • Poor dietary choices.

If you are unsure whether or not you are suffering from bad breath, a simple test you can complete is to lick the inside of your wrist and wait for a few moments until the saliva dries. Once the saliva has dried smell your wrist, if it smells unpleasant then it is highly likely that your breath does also.

Here are some ways to reduce or eradicate bad breath:

Brush and floss more regularly.

Plaque is the sticky buildup on the teeth that can cause issues or bad smells when left, as it encourages bacteria to grow. Brush your teeth at least two times per day, or more, if you are concerned about the smell of your breath.

It is also wise to floss once per day in order to remove trapped foods and bacteria that may be growing between the teeth.

However, try not to overdo these two processes as you may begin to cause more damage than good. If you see blood after brushing your teeth, reduce the frequency back to only twice per day. A small amount of blood is normal when you first begin flossing, however if this persists reduce the amount of times you complete the process and try to be more gentle when doing so.

Rinse your mouth out.

After consuming foods or sugary sweets and drinks, rinse your mouth out with either mouthwash or water to remove buildup and food debris. Mouthwash can also temporarily improve the way your breath smells reducing the likelihood of bad breath/ halitosis.

Scrape your tongue rather than brush.

As previously mentioned within the article, scraping rather than brushing is a more thorough method of cleaning the tongue. By scraping you are removing more of the bacteria and debris that can be the causal agents of bad breath, as well as more easily reaching all areas of the tongue. For example, a toothbrush head may have some difficulty reaching the back of the tongue and can cause the gag reflex to flare.

Invest in a tongue scraper and complete the process described above once or twice per day for best results.

Avoid foods that can sour your breath.

Strong smelling foods can be a huge cause of bad breath for many individuals. Foods such as onions and garlic can linger long after brushing your teeth or using a mouthwash, due to travelling to the lungs and staying on your breath.

The best way to solve this issue is to stop eating these foods altogether, or alternatively avoid eating them in situations where the quality of your breath is of importance.

Stop smoking and drinking.

Both tobacco and alcohol are big factors in causing bad breath for many individuals. Smoking can damage your gums, stain the teeth and cause foul-smelling breath for many. Likewise, overuse of alcohol can cause poor health and poor smelling breath.

Visit your local health care provider for advice and help on how to quit either regular smoking or regular drinking.

Use after-dinner mints or chew gum.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day

Try using sugar-free mints or sugar-free chewing gum after eating for better quality smelling breath.

It is important to use sugar-free products as the bacteria in the mouth loves sugar, using it to create acids and further reduce the quality of the breath.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

If you do not make enough saliva you may be more prone to illnesses such as gum disease. Therefore, if you suffer from a dry mouth it is important to regularly drink water during the day to combat this issue and avoid problems such as gum disease -a key factor in causing bad breath.

Furthermore, consuming water is vital for the healthy functioning of the body. It is recommended that the average adult should drink around 2 litres of water per day.

This is important for bad breath as a healthy body should contribute towards the quality of the breath the person creates.

Try using baking soda.

Brushing your teeth with baking soda once or twice per week is a good way of neutralizing the bad bacteria within the mouth. Using your normal toothbrush simply add a small amount of baking soda onto the bristles and use as you usually would, brushing in circular motions.

This product can also be used as a mouthwash, by dissolving half a teaspoon worth of baking soda into a small glass of water you can create the mixture needed. Swill this mixture around your mouth for around 30 seconds, avoiding swallowing, and then spit out.

Note: Baking soda is also useful for whitening the teeth -an added benefit of using this for bad breath problems!

Have regular dental check ups and work.

Visiting a dentist regularly is a key way of keeping your mouth healthy and treating issues such as bad breath. A dentist can perform a deep-clean of your gums, teeth and general mouth area and can identify if you may have any specific issues causing the problem.

Drink green tea.

Green tea is useful for treating many problems within the body and is responsible for various health benefits when consuming regularly, one of these benefits including improving your oral health and any bad breath problems you may have. This tea is high in antioxidants and helps to fight the bacteria within the mouth, as well as neutralizing smells that come from foods such as garlic.

If, even after trying all these methods, your case of bad breath persists it may be wise to visit your doctor. By visiting a healthcare professional they should be able to determine the cause of the problem and help advise or administer the correct treatment and care for yourself.

How to correctly brush your teeth.

Well, if you’ve learnt how to correctly brush your tongue we may as well teach you how to correctly brush your teeth too! After all, how can be combat bad breath and improve oral hygiene if you’re unsure on how to do this!

The toothbrush.

Choosing the correct toothbrush is an important venture. For most adult individuals, a toothbrush with a small head and a compact arrangement of both short and long bristles is the best choice. We recommend using either medium or soft bristles for best effects and healthier gums.

The toothpaste.

Choosing the correct toothpaste is another essential part of ensuring the health of your teeth. The correct toothpaste should have the right concentration of fluoride, for adults this is at least 1,350 parts per million fluoride.

Some great brands of toothpaste include:

  • Oral-B
  • Colgate
  • Sensodyne
  • Corsodyl

The method.

Brush using circular motions, aiming to cover all surfaces of the teeth. To brush the entirety of your mouth this should take around 2 minutes or more. Remember to brush the backs of your teeth, as well as the chewing surfaces for an overall thorough clean.

Once you brushed your teeth, spit out any toothpaste and avoid rinsing with water. By rinsing with water you are removing the fluoride coating on the teeth and therefore reducing the preventative effects it should have on the teeth, protecting them from harm.

Do not use mouthwash immediately after brushing your teeth as this will also wash away the fluoride left on the teeth. Try using mouthwash a different time in the day, such as after lunch time avoiding drinking or consuming food for up to half an hour after use.

Final thoughts.

We here at Balance Me Beautiful love hearing from our readers, so feel free to comment below which method you find works better for cleaning your tongue -the brush or scraper. Whichever way of tongue cleaning you prefer, we hope you are now fully equipped on the correct way to do so allowing for fantastic oral health and even better smelling breath. Likewise, we hope our comprehensive list of ways to improve bad breath also helps those suffering from the issue.

We always appreciate hearing from our readers therefore if you have any questions or queries regarding the website, would like to submit an article idea or for anything else please contact us via our Contact Page. We look forward to hearing from you!

As usual guys, thanks for reading and please come back soon!
By Chess Taylor.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.