The Why, When, and How of Tongue Scraping

Imagine it’s still winter and you’re standing at the door, ready to brave the cold. You’re layered-up with three shirts and a sweatshirt, a heavy winter coat, and two layers of socks underneath waterproof winter boots. You’ve got those awesome jeans with the flannel on the inside, a comfy hat, a scarf, and gloves. You’re set! But wait..as you step toward the door, you suddenly realize you have an itch. It’s an itch that’s deep down, buried beneath all those layers of clothing. Try as you may, every attempt to reach that bugger-of-an-itch fails. Defeated, you realize the only relief you’re ever going to get is to remove each one of those layers. Where are we going with this analogy?!

 

The Tongue

We’re going inside your mouth, of course, to your tongue – this is a dental article, after all! Because whether you know it or not, like in the wintertime, your tongue is also “all covered up” – buried beneath layers of bacteria, fungi, and food residue that can inhibit your ability to taste, let alone cause your tongue to appear various shades of yellow, white, or green! Remove the bacteria, and your food will once again directly interact with those taste buds, and return to its natural hue. So how does one do that? One method is with a tongue scraper.

 

WHAT is a tongue scraper

A tongue scraper is a U-shaped device designed to “scrape” the top layer of scum from your tongue. They have been in use since ancient times, and have been made of everything from wood to whalebone. Nowadays, they are made of more hygienic material, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes, designs and colors.

 

WHY use a tongue scraper

The residue on your tongue includes things like the cavity-inducing Streptococcus mutans bacterium, fungi, rotting food (that’s not good), and what’s referred to as “volatile sulfur compounds.” In other words, sulfur – that “rotting egg smell.” Talk about ew! So, as you can see, there are several reasons why you’d want to get rid of this gunk in your mouth. Let’s tackle them one by one:

  • Reduce bad breath: enough said!
  • Reduce your risk of periodontal disease and cavities: Bad bacteria contribute to plaque and tartar on teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities. Bacteria build-up can also lead to inflammation of gum tissue (gingivitis). If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, which means a more expensive dental visit (plus other unwanted consequences!). Speaking of avoiding an expensive dental visit, when was the last time you came in to see us? Come see us now if it’s been awhile.
  • Make room for good bacteria.
  • Prevent heart disease? While the debate is still up in the air, some studies suggest there could be a correlation between gum disease and heart disease.

HOW to use a tongue scraper

In general, make sure to rinse your tongue scraper before and after use. Apply the tongue scraper to the back of your tongue and drag it forward GENTLY. Then, rinse and repeat. Make sure to get the sides of your tongue as well, not just the center! Make sure not to press too hard or you can cause yourself to bleed and damage your tongue. If you’re wondering if you should scrape your tongue while recovering from a dental procedure, that’s a good question … ask your dentist for the best advice particular to your situation. Still not sure how this thing really works? The next time you’re visiting Soothing Dental, ask our hygienist, Haleigh Stanley, for a quick tutorial!

 

 

Brushing FAQs

Mouth open or mouth closed?

After lunch or after dinner?

Flat or at an angle?

We brush our teeth every day (hopefully!), but who knew it was this complicated. Just grab a brush a get to work, right? Not so fast, my friend! There are actually some best practices to be mindful of when brushing those pearly whites. Fear not, because we’ve got you covered with this handy FAQ (frequently asked questions) guide. We’ll keep it simple with some easy dos and don’ts of brushing. Let’s get to it!

Proper Brushing Habits:

Don’t: Keep your brush flat
Do: Use a 45-degree angle when brushing

Don’t: Use looooooooong strokes. No need to cover your whole mouth in one stroke!
Do: Use short, side to side strokes

Don’t: Brush with the force of a giant. This isn’t a strongman contest!
Do: Gently cover all areas. A gentle touch helps prevent wear and tear on your enamel

Don’t: Go one and done
Do: Brush at least twice a day, especially after eating or drinking something acidic (like citrus or soda)

Don’t: Be sentimental and use the same toothbrush for life
Do: Change your toothbrush every 3-4 months. A trick to remember: switch out on the first day of each season

Don’t: Be average – the average person brushes their teeth for 45 seconds
Do: Brush for a full 2 minutes. A helpful trick: say the alphabet while brushing a certain section, move to the next section after you hit Z.

Don’t: Keep your toothbrush in a closed container
Do: All your toothbrush to air dry

Don’t: Store your toothbrush on the sink counter where bathroom particles can get on it
Do: Store your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet

Don’t: Wield a tough-bristled brush
Do: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, which is much better for your tooth enamel

And there we have it! Some easy practices to keep that perfect smile.
Remember: Brushing is only 4 minutes out of the day, so why not make it the best 4 minutes of the day!

– The Soothing Dental Team

Did you know there are five distinct stages of tooth decay? And, that in the first stage of decay, you can actually take steps to reverse the progression of the disease? Indeed, it’s true. In the first stage of decay, whether you’re a child or an adult, the application of fluoride via fluoride treatments, your toothpaste and even the local water supply can stop a cavity from penetrating through the enamel and reaching its second stage. Even the saliva in your mouth and the foods you eat help to re-mineralize a tooth in jeopardy. But that’s just the first stage! What about the rest? Understanding how a cavity progresses can assist you in preventing each successive stage from occurring in your children. There’s always a lot going on in that little mouth!

 
Stage One: White Spots
In stage one, the tooth begins to show signs of strain from the attack of sugars and acids, and white spots will begin to materialize just below the surface of the enamel. These white spots are representative of the demineralization of the tooth and can be easy to miss because they’re likely to occur on your child’s molars. A dental exam, of course, is designed to catch such cavities! Can you see why regular visits to the dentist are recommended? As mentioned previously, at this stage, the cavity can be repaired without the need to excavate the tooth. 

 
Stage Two: Enamel Decay
Stage two marks the beginning of the end for the surface enamel that is being attacked.
Initially, the tooth erodes from the underside outward, so the outer enamel will still be intact for the first half of this second stage. Once the cavity breaks through the surface of the enamel, there is no turning back, and your child will need to have the cavity corrected with a filling. 

 
Stage Three: Dentin Decay
If a cavity in your child’s mouth were to progress beyond stage two without you knowing, you’d tend become aware of it when it started to hit stage three because it would probably start to cause some pain. At this level, the cavity begins to eat away at the second level of tooth material that lies beneath the enamel: the dentin. A filling can still be used to stop the onslaught of bacteria assaulting the tooth in order to prevent the cavity from reaching the tooth’s most critical component: the pulp.

 
Stage Four: Involvement of The Pulp
Once the cavity reaches the pulp, it’s going to hurt. A lot. So if you’ve unfortunately missed all the signs to this point, a screaming child or moaning teenager will certainly let you know there is a big problem. Stage four is serious, and a root canal is the only option of treatment at this stage, save for a complete extraction. 

 
Stage Five: Abscess Formation
In the fifth and final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached the tip of the root and exited the tip of the tooth’s structure. This in turn infects the surrounding tissues and possibly the bone structure. Swelling would be commonplace and pain severe. In children (as well as adults) an abscess can be fatal if not dealt with immediately. Root canal or extraction would be the order of the day should decay reach this stage.

 
As you can see, cavities don’t happen overnight. In the early stages, regular visits can stall and reverse the progression of these dastardly little devils, so it really does pay to visit the dentist at pre-selected intervals. You can keep your kids far from stage five their whole lives, and if a little bit of prodding to get them to the dentist accomplishes that, you can rest easy despite the griping.

– The Soothing Dental Team