What Happens When You Don’t Clean Your Tongue

Is Brushing Your Tongue Actually Necessary?

Yes! Cleaning your tongue is imperative to having a healthy mouth and fresh breath. 

Your mouth is full of bacteria and your tongue acts like a sponge where that bacteria and other food particles rest throughout the day. If you are brushing your teeth, but neglecting your tongue,you’re only doing half the job at removing odor-causing bacteria from your mouth. Your tongue becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria which can lead to several less than pleasant smelling situations. 

Let’s take a look at what happens when you continually forgo cleaning your tongue. (Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty.)

4 Dental Problems From NOT Brushing Your Tongue 

1. Halitosis

Halitosis, more commonly referred to as bad breath, is the #1 indicator of poor oral hygiene. Typically foul odor from the mouth is a result of an overgrowth of bacteria, especially at the back of the tongue. To avoid embarrassing situations (like your kiddo announcing your have stinky breath in public), make it a habit to scrape your tongue to prevent bacteria build-up.


Man covering his mouth with both hands, for AutoBrush

 2. Dull Taste Buds

Bacteria build-up on the tongue does not only cause stinky breath, but also hinders your sense of taste. Excess debris and bacteria on the tongue can create a biofilm over your taste buds. This makes it so you can’t fully enjoy authentic flavors.


Woman getting ready to eat a slice of pizza, for AutoBrush

3. Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue is caused by an overgrowth of dead skin cells, causing lengthening and discoloring of the papillae. Though unattractive, it’s a fairly common and harmless condition. 

How do you fix a hairy tongue?

Black hairy tongue usually doesn't require medical treatment. To help solve the condition, practice good oral hygiene and eliminate any contributing factors like the use of tobacco. 


Person that has a hairy black tongue, for AutoBrush

Hairy black tongue by WCPO Cincinnati


4. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a fungal infection that occurs when an amount of bad bacteria is overgrown. This results in naturally occurring yeast on the tongue. 

Common oral thrush symptoms include: 

  • White, slightly raised areas, often on the tongue, inner cheeks, roof of mouth, gums, tonsils, or back of throat.
  • Raised spots that look like cottage cheese.
  • Cracking and redness at the corners of your mouth (angular cheilitis)
  • A cottony feeling.
  • Loss of taste.

    Fortunately, oral thrush is treatable. If you are experiencing the symptoms above, contact your dentist or doctor and ask about anti-fungal medication. 

    Tongue with yeast infection, for Autobrush

    Tongue with yeast infection by 100 Home Remedies



    What is the best tool to use to clean my tongue?

    We recommend using the AutoBrush® Automatic Tongue Scraper instead of a toothbrush. According to a study by the American Academy of Periodontology, it is more effective to scrape your tongue than to brush it. Unlike toothbrushes which push bacteria around the tongue, tongue scrapers are designed to effectively remove the coated layer of bacteria off the tongue. 

    Does the tongue clean itself?

    Dr Richard Marques commented, "If you eat a lot of 'roughage', such as raw vegetables, your tongue will be naturally clean. However, most of us don't - so tongue cleaning as part of your twice daily oral health regimen is a good idea.”

    How often should I clean my tongue?

    While brushing and flossing work wonders to remove plaque and odor-causing bacteria stuck between the teeth, you must brush your tongue twice a day to achieve a full-mouth clean. A good rule of thumb is to scrape your tongue after each time you brush your teeth – especially before you go to bed. This helps reduce the growth of bacteria overnight and lessens the chance of morning breath. 

    What does a clean tongue look like? 

    A healthy tongue should be pink in color with small nodules called papillae over the surface. If your tongue looks inflamed or has discoloration, contact your dentist or doctor as it could be an indication of a severe underlying issue.

    How do I clean my tongue without gagging?

    You may experience gagging while cleaning your tongue if your toothbrush slides too far back in your mouth. To avoid this, invest in a tongue scraper. Most tongue scrapers feature a curved edge that removes odor-causing bacteria and lingering food particles when dragged across the tongue.


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