It all in the tongue

You have a hot date, but what if your breath plays up?

Rather than getting in a twist about smelly breath before a big date, treat your tongue to a fresh breath fix this February. When it comes to bad breath, experts agree that the tongue can often be the culprit.

February is National Fresh Breath Month. This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of cleaning the tongue as part of an effective oral care routine.

“We recommend tongue scraping as part of a regular oral care routine,” says Stella Lamprecht, President of the Oral Hygienists’ Association of South Africa. “The surface of the tongue has tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can accumulate. Removing the bacteria and debris on the tongue is one of the simplest ways to ensure fresh breath and a healthy mouth. Everyone, from children to older people, should incorporate it into their daily oral hygiene.”

“Ideally use a tool specially designed for the job like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner,” says Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth’s oral hygiene advisor. “Alternatively, use your toothbrush or a metal teaspoon turned upside down; both are better than not doing it at all.”

“Start as far back as you can without gagging and gently scrape the tongue’s surface. Don’t use much pressure. It shouldn’t be painful or cause injury. Rinse the tool after each swipe and then gargle, using water or an alcohol-free mouthwash.”

In some cultures, cleaning the tongue has been a tradition since ancient times. For centuries, Indian Ayurvedic medicine has recommended daily scraping for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. More recently research has shown that cleaning the tongue improves breath odour and the sense of taste.

“Brushing correctly, flossing in-between the teeth and cleaning the tongue are the cornerstones of effective oral care,” says Grobbelaar. “If plaque and food debris are not properly removed from the various parts of the mouth they break down and release foul-smelling gases, irritate the gums and potentially cause disease.”

For expert oral care advice speak to your dental professional or visit

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