Happy kid with her tongue out

Should my child brush their tongue too?

In your child’s oral hygiene routine, you likely focus on brushing and flossing their teeth or supervising them brushing and flossing. But what about their tongue? Is there any benefit to brushing your child’s tongue? 

Here’s everything you need to know about this great oral hygiene tip. We’ll discuss the benefits of cleaning your child’s tongue and how to use tongue scrapers for a beautiful, healthy smile! 

Bad bacteria Vs. Good bacteria

For the most part, bacteria in our mouths is normal and we have about 20 billion bacteria in our mouths at any moment. These bacteria reproduce every five hours; if your little or teen doesn’t brush their teeth for 24 hours, those 20 billion bacteria multiply to 100 billion bacteria!

A lot of these bacteria are “good” and beneficial for defending their teeth and gums, freshening their breath and aiding the digestive process. “Scientists have identified more than 700 different species of oral bacteria that live in the mouth and make up [the] oral microbiome.”

However, there are also “bad” bacteria that do just the opposite: cause bad breath and foul odors, cavities, gum disease, heart disease, and other diseases in the body.

Needless to say, minimizing the “bad” bacteria and keeping a clean mouth is essential for maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in the mouth to prevent disease. 

Cleaning your child’s tongue can play a major part in helping your child achieve and maintain a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime!

Top 3 benefits of brushing your child’s tongue

1. Cleaning your child’s tongue removes bacteria

Bacteria flourish between taste buds and within the crevices of the tongue. Cleaning your child’s tongue helps to remove additional bacteria that you (or they) may be missing during their daily brushing routine. 

Studies published in the National Library of Medicine have shown that tongue scrapers (we’ll get to these in a minute) can reduce bacteria by 75%, while using only a toothbrush reduces bacteria in the mouth by 45%.  That’s a significant 30% difference in bacteria, just from using a tongue cleaning tool! 

Helping to reduce bacteria in your child’s mouth will help prevent bad breath and bad tastes in the mouth, as well as prevent gum disease, cavities and associated health conditions. 

2. Cleaning your child’s tongue supports better digestion

The food digestion process begins in the mouth, where our saliva has specialized enzymes that break down food and make it easy for the stomach and intestines to digest food. 

Cleaning your child’s tongue first thing in the morning can help to activate those digestive enzymes, promoting happy digestion throughout the day! This can help keep tummy aches at bay, give them more energy throughout their day, and help them maintain a healthy weight.

3. Cleaning your child’s tongue helps them learn the importance of oral health

Cleaning your 5 year old’s tongue (or a child at any age) gives you another way to encourage proper oral hygiene and gives your child a better understanding of the difference between a clean mouth and a dirty one! 

For example, they’ll be able to taste the difference as bacteria often leave an icky taste in their mouth while a clean tongue can taste like their toothpaste. Also encourage your child to look in the mirror before and after cleaning their tongue as bacteria will often leave a white film on their tongue and watch their reaction as they see it disappears after a good brushing!

Also when cleaning their tongue, they’ll be using at least two senses (taste and sight) which stimulates different areas of their brain at the same time, helping them learn while making it fun!

How to clean your child’s little tongue

Using a toothbrush

Cleaning your child’s tongue is simple! You can purchase a separate toothbrush with a medium bristle to gently brush your kiddo’s tongue, or you can use their regular toothbrush to brush their tongue for 30 seconds after brushing their teeth. 

There are toothbrushes (like the Colgate Kids Toothbrush) that have tongue scrapers on the back of them! You can use this toothbrush to brush your child’s teeth normally, then flip it over to brush their tongue for 30 seconds before rinsing it off.

Using a tongue scraper

A tongue scraper is a tool commonly used to scrape the “film” off of the tongue and remove bacteria from the crevices in the tongue. 

ScraperThese oral hygiene devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some shaped like a V with two handles, and others shaped with a loop and a singular handle (pictured to the left). 

The goal is to press the V shape or loop on the tongue, pulling from the back of the tongue or throat toward the front opening of your child’s mouth.  

How to use a tongue scraper

  1. Place the rounded or V-shaped end of the scraper at the back of your child’s tongue, toward their throat.
  2. Gently and slowly pull the scraper forward toward the tip of their tongue.
  3. Repeat this scraping motion 5 to 10 times, until you see the white film on their tongue dissipate.
  4. Rinse the tongue scraper off between each scrape.
  5. Wash the tongue scraper with mild soap and water and store it in a dry place.
  6. Use the tongue scraper morning and night, after brushing your child’s teeth. 

Still have questions about cleaning your child’s tongue?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions! Cleaning your tongue is an additional step in your child’s oral hygiene routine that can prove highly beneficial for keeping little teeth clean. 

Our experienced Kids Smiles Pediatric Dentistry team is here to help you and your child develop healthy habits that lead to a lifetime of beautiful smiles. We’re here to give you any oral hygiene tips you need!

Our team is led by renowned pediatric dentist, Dr. Frank Sierra, who has more than 25 years of experience providing compassionate, expert care for children and teens. 

We are your trusted pediatric dentist in Tampa Bay and Bradenton! Ready to schedule your first visit? Here’s what you can expect on your first visit. Schedule an appointment with us today!