Brushing and flossing your teeth are only parts of an optimal oral hygiene program. Most people know that good oral hygiene is important in maintaining the health of the teeth and gums, but it is also important to maintain the health of the entire mouth including other tissues in the oral cavity. In addition to brushing the teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing on a regular basis, it is also important to clean other areas of the mouth, particularly the tongue.
The tongue's rough and porous surface can harbor plaque-causing bacteria. Plaque is a bacterial film that forms when food particles collect on teeth, promoting tooth decay and gum disease. If the tongue isn't cleaned regularly and continues to harbor these bacteria, it can serve as a reservoir and re-seed the teeth and gums with bacteria.
Not only do the bacteria coating the tongue contribute to plaque formation, they also can cause odor, resulting in halitosis or bad breath.
The solution to these problems is brushing your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush in good condition at least a couple of times a week. An antiseptic mouthwash such as Listerine will also cut down on bacteria that dwell in the mouth.
An alternative to brushing the tongue is the use of a tongue scraper, which is a hand-held device, usually with serrated edges, designed to remove bacteria from the tongue by drawing them across its surface. Tongue scrapers are OK, but they're really no better than a good toothbrush. It's really up to the individual as to how they clean their tongue. The important thing is that they do it on a regular basis.