Brushing and flossing is not enough to remove harmful bacteria from your child's mouth. Tongue cleaning is a necessary part of dental hygiene. With proper techniques and a dedicated daily regime, tongue cleaning can remove bacteria, alleviate bad breath and cut down on cavities and gum disease.
The purpose of tongue cleaning is to remove unwanted food particles, reduce bacteria and avoid bad breath. Cleaning the tongue one to two times a day in conjunction with brushing and flossing proves to be more effective than brushing and flossing alone. Tongue cleaning should be part of your child's oral hygiene regime from infancy to adulthood.
Using a Tongue Scraper
Tongue scraping has been practiced for hundreds of years. Tongue scraping is recommended as a way to clean bacteria from the tongue. Scrapers are made of metal or plastic and come in child and adult sizes. The scraper should be wide enough to cover the width of the tongue. When using a tongue scraper, place it as far back in your mouth as possible, without eliciting a gag, then scrape forward to remove any white coating on the tongue. Rinse the scraper each time you run it across the tongue. Continue to scrape until the tongue is clean and coating is removed. After the tongue is clean, floss and brush your teeth as usual.
Babies Younger Than 1 Year Old
During the first year of life, babies need oral hygiene. Formula, breast milk and baby food stick to the tongue, causing sour breath and a white coating of bacteria and soft plaque. Clean your baby's tongue by wetting your finger with water and brushing it over the tongue and gums. This should be done before naps and at bedtime. A clean, moist cloth also works well to wipe the tongue clean. A soft finger toothbrush and water can be used for children older than 6 months. Care should be taken to avoid gagging or injuring your baby. Toothpaste is not recommended because babies tend to swallow it, so use water only.
1 to 5 Years Old
Young children are unable to perform oral care on their own. Using a tongue scraper is not advised for this age group, but using a toothbrush to gently brush the teeth and tongue twice a day is recommended. A soft finger toothbrush, which slides over the end of your finger, is ideal for tongue cleaning at this age. A small dollop of toothpaste can be used after the age of 2, but remind your child not to swallow the toothpaste. The tongue should be cleaned gently, as taste buds can be damaged. Be careful not to gag the child, as this could cause vomiting. Always clean the tongue first, before brushing the teeth.
5 to 10 Years Old
Children in this age group need reminders and supervision during oral hygiene. Child-size tongue scrapers can be introduced. Tongue scraping should be performed twice a day, before brushing. Teach your child the proper technique for using a tongue scraper, following manufacturer's guidelines or your dentist's recommendations. A toothbrush can also be used for tongue cleaning. After the age of 7, most children are capable of using an electric toothbrush, but this should never be used on the tongue. Children should use child-size toothbrushes that fit more easily into their mouths and are easier for them to manage.
10 to 18 Years Old
As children grow more independent in their dental hygiene regimes, they will continue to require reminders, encouragement and supervision. Check to make sure they maintain a healthy schedule of brushing, flossing and tongue cleaning. Tongue cleaning should be done twice a day. While some dentists recommend using a toothbrush for tongue cleaning, others advise using a tongue scraper.
- Wiley Online Library; "International Journal of Dental Hygiene"; The Comparative Evaluation of the Effects of Tongue Cleaning...; S. Rupesh, et al.; July 2011
- Dr. Chintamani Kale, et al.; Orthodontics and Pediatric Dental Clinic; Bandra West, Mumbai
- Simplyteeth Limited; Oral Hygiene and Plaque; 2004
- Dr. Dan Peterson; Family Gentle Dental Care; Gering, Nebraska
- Whole Body Detox Diet.com: How and Why to Use a Tongue Scraper