All About Tongue Scrapers

As a family dentist, our chief concern is to promote optimal oral hygiene. In our dental clinic, we frequently emphasize brushing twice a day and flossing at least once, combined with routine dental cleanings twice yearly for optimal preventive dentistry. But, there is an additional way to enhance your oral health. Introducing: next level clean through tongue scraping.

As this practice has recently regained momentum with people’s increased commitment to staying healthy, we have received many questions about tongue scrapers, so wanted to shed some light on these fabulous tools.

Do you recommend tongue scraping?

Tongue scraping involves using a tool called a tongue scraper to help eliminate food debris from your tongue. This process is like an excellent deep cleaning detail for your mouth. We all love that squeaky clean freshness we feel right after a trip to the dentist office, and adding tongue scraping to your oral health routine is a great way to help prolong that sensation.

Benefits of tongue scrapers

The most common question we get is do tongue scrapers work? The short answer is a resounding yes!!! Sure, brushing your tongue can help remove food particles and bacteria to freshen your breath, but tongue scrapers simply do it so much better! Here’s the why and how of it:

Optimal Health: If not properly cleaned, your tongue can be a breeding ground for bacteria and a buildup of dead cells, leaving you vulnerable to gum infections, gum disease and tooth decay. These conditions have been found to potentially impact your overall health, with links to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

Balance: As with most things, the goal is to achieve a balance between good and less than ideal bacteria. A tongue scraper helps facilitate that by eliminating lactobacilli and mutans streptococci that contribute to cavities, decay, gum disease and bad breath.

Freshness: For those struggling with embarrassing bad breath, this is likely due to excess bacteria that produces an unpleasant odor. Research indicates that removing the odor-causing sulfur compounds with a tongue scraper is more effective than popping a mint, as it addresses the root cause of the problem. Note: More research is needed to understand the benefits of tongue scraping for chronic halitosis.

Better Food Enjoyment: Ever notice that your food is tasting bland or that you can’t tell a significant difference between salty, sweet and sour flavors in what you are eating? Rather than adding more sugar, salt or a squeeze of lemon to your food, try a tongue scraper and you might be amazed at the flavor explosion due to an improved sense of taste.

Whiten your tongue: No, we aren’t talking about whitening your tongue as we do teeth whitening. You may have seen a white coating on your tongue which is usually a sign of dead cells, debris and bacterial buildup. To return your tongue to its healthy pink hue and keep it that way, a tongue scraper may just be your best ally. However, if it persists, schedule a dental appointment as white patches on the tongue can be due to an oral yeast infection, thrush or other more serious issues.

Types of tongue scrapers

“Which type should I try?” is the next big question. These small tools have a variety of options. You can choose a metal (copper or stainless steel) or plastic model. Most are inexpensive (under $10) and readily available from drugstores or online in a wide range of shapes. The type you choose is really a personal preference. But, with metal scrapers being durable and easy to keep clean (many can be put in the dishwasher!), and copper scrapers having added antimicrobial benefits, metal versions earn our vote.

How to use a tongue scraper

After brushing and flossing, lightly run your tongue scraper from the back of your tongue outwards a few times and swish with water when you are through. Do this twice a day, being mindful to let the tongue scraper do the job it was designed for. In other words, hard pressure is not needed or desirable as you can cause unnecessary damage or discomfort. Furthermore, don’t use a scraper with a rough or uneven surface. Be sure to clean your scraper between passes and rinse like you would your toothbrush, to keep it clean for the next use. If you have a strong gag reflex, you can start at the middle of the tongue until you become more accustomed to tongue scraping.

Drawbacks of tongue scrapers

There is little to no downside to using tongue scrapers! So long as people refrain from overzealous attempts to remove things on their tongue that should be looked at by a family dentist, and combine it with regular brushing and flossing, we see brighter, fresher breath and oral health ahead!