Should I Teach My Child to Brush Their Tongue?

Make sure your children have the knowledge and skills needed to keep their mouths healthy by teaching them from a young age how to brush their tongue. This often overlooked task, when combined with brushing and flossing, can dramatically improve your child’s oral health and reduce their risk of developing gum disease or experience severe tooth decay that leads cavities.

Why it is Important to Clean Your Tongue on a Daily Basis

Your tongue is a very sticky surface. Unwanted food particles and bacteria stick to your tongue. If the food particles and bacteria aren’t quickly removed, dangerous bacteria can grow and spread throughout the mouth. The dangerous bacteria can cause a number of problems ranging from tooth decay and cavities to gum disease.

Brushing and flossing your teeth will help remove some of the dangerous bacteria in your mouth, but it doesn’t remove the bacteria from your tongue. Adding tongue cleaning to your daily oral care routine will help to further reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth by removing leftover food particles and some bacteria from the tongue.

How Do You Clean or Brush Your Tongue?

Some people assume that tongue cleaning involves taking a toothbrush and running it over your tongue. While this is better than doing nothing, it isn’t the most effective way to clean your tongue. Using a tool known as a tongue scraper is the best way to remove any food particles or bacteria from the tongue.

There are two different sized tongue scrapers available: child size and adult size. The type of tongue scraper your child will need to use will depend on their age and the size of their tongue. A properly sized tongue scraper will be just wide enough to cover the entire width of the tongue. Children can typically use a child size tongue scraper until they are between the ages of 9 and 12, but it will vary depending on how fast they are growing.

Tips for Teaching Your Child How to Brush or Scrape Their Tongue

Keep the following tips in mind when trying to teach your child how to properly brush their tongue:

  • Tongue scrapers should not be used until a child is at least 5 years old
  • Be a good role model. Make sure you are brushing and cleaning your tongue on a daily basis as children tend to learn from their parents.
  • Teach your child the proper sequence for brushing and flossing. Teach them to scrape or clean their tongue first then brush and floss their teeth.
  • Make sure your child never uses an electric toothbrush to clean their tongue. The vibrations could damage the surface of their tongue.
  • Teach your child to clean their tongue scraper after each run over the tongue. Reusing the tongue scraper without cleaning it could cause harmful bacteria to spread throughout the mouth. Rinse the tongue scraper in warm water before reusing it.
  • Teach your child to clean their entire tongue. The tongue scraper should start as far back in the mouth as possible. Failure to reach all the way to the back of the tongue could leave harmful bacteria to continue to sit on the tongue.

Start Cleaning Your Child’s Tongue from an Early Age

Tongue cleaning should be a part of your child’s oral care routine from the time they are born. During the first year of their life, start by cleaning their tongue with a damp cloth after each feeding. This will help remove any leftover sugars and bacteria that may start to form in the mouth after your child consumes formula or breast milk.

When your child turns 1, you will change up their oral care routine. Instead of using a damp cloth, you will use a soft toothbrush. Use the soft toothbrush to clean all the sides of their tongue. The soft toothbrush should be used until your child turns 5. After they turn 5, you can show them how to use a tongue scraper. The first few times you may need to help them use the tongue scraper, but afterward they can do it on their own.

Have questions about teaching your child how to properly clean their tongue? If so, schedule an appointment at Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics. Our friendly dental staff will gladly provide you with tips on how to teach your child to clean their tongue and answer any questions you may have about tongue cleaning.

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