Scrape or Scrub? Oral Hygiene and Your Child’s Tongue

Tongues are weird. It’s true.

Then again, they’re also fascinating—in a rather icky way, of course. Despite its important role in the way we eat and speak, the tongue often goes neglected in the average child’s oral hygiene regimen. This in spite the fact that the tongue is a veritable playground for bacteria, many of which produce stinky volatile sulfur compounds when hidden within the bumps, ridges, and folds of this most peculiar organ. In fact, up to 50% of bacteria living in our mouth can be found on the surface of the tongue. If your child has bad breath, there’s an excellent chance that these tongue-dwelling bacteria are to blame—and that tongue scrapers may be the solution. Dr. Brad Greenfield, a family dentist in Lake Orion, MI, offers tips on instilling this healthy hygiene habit from an early age.

Scrape Away Stinky Breath

Studies confirm that using a tongue scraper removes more of these sulfur-producing bacteria than simply brushing the tongue surface with a toothbrush. However, brushing the tongue is preferable to not brushing or scraping the tongue. At first, your child may resist the idea of using a tongue scraper. It certainly sounds unpleasant, but you can explain that a clean tongue means having fresh breath and added protection against tooth decay. Dr. Greenfield recommends using a small, inverted spoon to acclimate your child to the feeling of tongue scraping. As your child becomes more comfortable with the practice, you can purchase a tongue scraper designed especially for kids. Compared to adult versions of tongue scrapers, kid-friendly versions have larger handles that are easy to hold, and a smaller size that fits more comfortably in the mouth.

If your child prefers to brush his tongue, teach him to use the toothbrush much like a paintbrush, “painting” the surface and sides of the tongue. Brush from back to front, encouraging him to brush as far back on the tongue as possible without triggering his gag reflex. This should be performed each time your child brushes her teeth. When your child visits our office for a dental checkup, we will gladly help demonstrate the proper way to do so.

Interesting Tongue Trivia for Kids

In the meantime, your child will enjoy these fascinating facts about tongues:

  • The average tongue boasts between 3,000 to 10,000 taste buds
  • The largest tongue in the world belongs to the blue whale, whose tongue weighs a whopping 5,400 pounds
  • The size of a dog’s tongue grows larger with physical activity or temperature. Blood flow to the area increases, helping to cool the animal–no sweat glands here!
  • Guinness World Records’ most difficult English-language tongue twister? “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”

Safe, gentle dental care for children and parents. To learn more about our services, or to request an appointment with Dr. Brad Greenfield, contact our Lake Orion, MI family dentist office at 248-693-6213. We welcome patients living in Rochester, Royal Oak, Potomac, Waterford, and the surrounding areas.