Tongue Scraping: Benefits, Best Tongue Scrapers & Risks
It sounds kind of painful, but it’s not! Tongue scraping is the habit of cleaning the surface of your tongue. This usually involves “scraping” the top of your tongue with a toothbrush or a specially designed tongue cleaner.
The main purpose of tongue scraping is to get rid of bad breath particles living on your tongue.
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Read below to learn why tongue scraping should be a part of your oral care routine, the evidence-based benefits of tongue scraping, risks, common misconceptions, and how to scrape your tongue step-by-step.
What is tongue scraping?
Tongue scraping is when you clean the surface of your tongue of substances that may be causing bad breath, like odor-causing bacteria, dead cells, and food particles.
The main reason to tongue scrape is to get rid of bad breath. Some do it simply because it makes their mouth feel cleaner.
Volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) are a primary cause of bad breath, as well as that bad taste in your mouth. Tongue scraping has been shown to help remove bacteria that are VSCs causing bad breath.
Tongue scrapers may be made of different materials:
- Stainless steel
Tongue scraping is basically the same as “tongue cleaning”.
Ayurveda, AKA traditional Indian medicine, recommends tongue cleaning as part of your oral hygiene routine. This is to remove toxic debris from your tongue.
Do tongue scrapers really work? Yes, tongue scrapers really work. Research on their efficacy is still limited, but what studies have been published indicate that tongue scraping gets rid of bad breath particles on your tongue.
Dry mouth leads to all sorts of oral health problems, including bad breath. If you suffer from chronic dry mouth, try to figure out the underlying cause. And in the meantime, scrape your tongue to combat the effects of dry mouth.
Risk factors for dry mouth:
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Mouth breathing
- Excess coffee consumption
- Oral thrush
- Alzheimer’s disease
5 Benefits of Tongue Scraping
- Removes build up of harmful bacteria
- Improves your sense of taste
- Improves the look of your tongue
- Improves the feel in your mouth
- Reduces bad breath
The main benefit of tongue scraping is reduced bad breath.
Ultimately, reducing harmful bacteria on your tongue may contribute to the prevention of gum disease and tooth decay. Tongue scraping isn’t just for the overall health of your mouth, it may be specifically protective to your gum and dental health.
Misconceptions About Using a Tongue Scraper
Below, I compiled a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) about tongue scraping.
Does tongue scraping affect my overall health? Yes, tongue scraping may positively affect your overall health and wellness. Cleaning your tongue may contribute to the prevention of periodontal disease and cavities, both of which — if left untreated — can adversely affect your overall health.
Can I skip brushing if I tongue scrape? No, you cannot skip brushing your teeth if you scrape your tongue. Brushing your teeth is the most important part of your oral care. Tongue scraping should only be a part of your daily oral hygiene routine.
Can tongue scraping treat bad breath? Yes, regular tongue scraping can treat bad breath. But “regular” is the key. Cleaning your tongue in the morning doesn’t prevent bad breath by nighttime. Twice daily tongue scraping is needed to stave off bad breath.
Where can I buy tongue scrapers? You can buy tongue scrapers from your local drug store (usually in the toothbrush aisle), or from online stores. Triple Bristle’s online store offers free US shipping on orders of tongue scrapers.
Does tongue scraping treat oral thrush? No, tongue scraping does not treat oral thrush. Although tongue scraping may help prevent oral thrush, once you’re showing signs of thrush, you should not scrape your tongue. This may lead to bleeding. If you exhibit symptoms of oral thrush, consult your dentist right away.
Can I use a spoon to scrape my tongue? Yes, you can use a spoon to scrape your tongue. A proper tongue cleaner probably gets much better coverage of the tongue. However, be careful not to press too hard with that metal spoon; tongue scraping should never hurt at all.
Can tongue scrapers damage taste buds? Yes, tongue scraping may damage your taste buds if you apply too much pressure. When you’re cleaning your tongue, you never want to feel any pain. That means you’re pressing too hard.
How to Scrape Your Tongue: Step-by-Step Instructions
Here is your step-by-step guide on how to scrape your tongue:
- After flossing then brushing your teeth, open your mouth wide. Place the tongue scraper on the back of the tongue — as far as you can go without gagging.
- Gently apply pressure and pull the scraper forward — from the back of your tongue to the tip. The tongue scraper should not hurt at all.
- Rinse the tongue scraper with warm water after the first scrape.
- Repeat this process if you feel like you need multiple passes.
- Wash the tongue scraper using soap and warm water. Harmful bacteria should be all over that thing, so clean your tongue scraper thoroughly.
- Store your tongue scraper in a clean, dry location (preferably far from your toilet).
Some sources tell you to rinse your mouth out with water, but I wouldn’t necessarily hold to that advice.
If you use fluoride or hydroxyapatite toothpaste, you don’t want to rinse the minerals off your teeth before they can work their magic. Fluoride or hydroxyapatite has to linger on your tooth surface to help remineralize cavities, and rinsing your mouth may stop that process.
How often should you scrape your tongue? Old research suggests that you should scrape your tongue twice daily to remove harmful bacteria and improve your sense of taste. I suggest tongue scraping each time you brush your teeth.
Side Effects & Precautions
Tongue scraping is a very low-risk, painless activity.
What are the side effects of tongue scraping?
- Damage to taste buds, if too much pressure is applied
- Vomiting, if gag reflex is induced
The main precaution when tongue scraping is to apply gentle pressure. You shouldn’t scrape your tongue like it owes you money.
Also, another precaution when tongue scraping is to thoroughly wash your tongue cleaner in between uses.
A 2019 systematic review found that harmful effects caused by tongue scraping were either not reported, not important, or non-existent.
Should you scrape your tongue?
Yes, you should scrape your tongue. Early evidence indicates that tongue scraping reduces harmful, odor-causing bacteria — and might even contribute to the prevention of periodontitis and cavities.
Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure when you scrape your tongue. Tongue scraping should not hurt at all.
Remember, tongue scraping should not be done instead of a full oral hygiene routine. It should be a part of a healthy oral hygiene routine:
Note: Mouthwash is not a necessary part of a full dental hygiene routine. Antibacterial mouthwash may actually be harmful to your oral microbiome. Instead, try oil pulling; it’s evidence-based and doesn’t kill the beneficial bacteria living in your mouth.
Click here to view Triple Bristle’s shop, where you can purchase all sorts of amazing oral hygiene tools, such as our silicone grip tongue scrapers or our original triple sided toothbrush. Every Triple Bristle toothbrush model includes a tongue cleaner — even the kids’ brush!
- Almas, K., Al-Sanawi, E., & Al-Shahrani, B. (2005). The effect of tongue scraper on mutans streptococci and lactobacilli in patients with caries and periodontal disease. Odonto-stomatologie Tropicale= Tropical Dental Journal, 28(109), 5-10. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16032940/
- Quirynen, M., Avontroodt, P., Soers, C., Zhao, H., Pauwels, M., & Van Steenberghe, D. (2004). Impact of tongue cleansers on microbial load and taste. Journal of clinical periodontology, 31(7), 506-510. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15191584/
- Pedrazzi, V., Sato, S., de Mattos, M. D. G. C., Lara, E. H. G., & Panzeri, H. (2004). Tongue?cleaning methods: a comparative clinical trial employing a toothbrush and a tongue scraper. Journal of periodontology, 75(7), 1009-1012. Full text: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Vinicius_Pedrazzi2/publication/273648298_Tongue-Cleaning_Methods_A_Comparative_Clinical_Trial_Employing_a_Toothbrush_and_a_Tongue_Scraper/links/5508100f0cf26ff55f7fcba5/Tongue-Cleaning-Methods-A-Comparative-Clinical-Trial-Employing-a-Toothbrush-and-a-Tongue-Scraper.pdf
- Bordas, A., McNab, R., Staples, A. M., Bowman, J., Kanapka, J., & Bosma, M. P. (2008). Impact of different tongue cleaning methods on the bacterial load of the tongue dorsum. archives of oral biology, 53, S13-S18. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18460399/
- Nagraj, S. K., Eachempati, P., Uma, E., Singh, V. P., Ismail, N. M., & Varghese, E. (2019). Interventions for managing halitosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12). Abstract: https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD012213.pub2/full