Tongue Scraping: Is It Effective and Should You Try It?
A tongue scraper might sound unpleasant, but it’s nothing more than an oral hygiene device you use to run over your tongue to help remove bacteria, dead cells, and debris. As important as it is to clean the rest of your mouth, it’s also a good idea to clean your tongue because it can trap the same bacteria your teeth and gums do. Keep reading to learn more about tongue scrapers and why you may want to start using one.
What Are the Benefits of a Tongue Scraper?
The most obvious benefit of a tongue scraper is its proven ability to remove bacteria.¹ This positively impacts your oral and overall health, as your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. Because a tongue scraper helps eliminate bacteria, it may also reduce bad breath.²
A tongue scraper can also improve the appearance of your tongue. If you ever notice a white film covering its surface, a tongue scraper could help remove it. Some studies also suggest that a tongue scraper can improve your sense of taste.³
We should note that although studies are mixed regarding the effectiveness of tongue scrapers,⁴ no credible studies cite that they’re less effective than cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush. Therefore, we can confidently say that a tongue scraper is just as practical as a toothbrush and possibly even more so.
How Does a Tongue Scraper Compare to a Toothbrush?
A tongue scraper and a toothbrush are both excellent devices to clean your tongue. Although using a toothbrush may be more convenient since we all have one, most studies show that tongue scrapers possess roughly the same level of overall effectiveness as toothbrushes.² Just be sure to use them as intended, and don’t overdo it.
Should I Use a Tongue Scraper or a Toothbrush?
Choosing which one to use comes down to personal preference, but try using a tongue scraper if you have a white film on your tongue that your brush isn’t able to remove.
How Often Should I Clean My Tongue?
You should scrape or brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth. According to the ADA, you should brush twice daily.⁵
Does a Tongue Scraper Really Help Rid Bad Breath?
Although studies suggest that tongue scraping helps remove bacteria and reduce bad breath,² tongue scraping alone likely won’t fully resolve the problem of halitosis since there could be other causes, such as acid reflux or periodontal disease. In that case, it’s best to work with your dentist to determine the cause and develop a strategy to remediate it.
How Do I Use a Tongue Scraper?
- Stand in front of a mirror and stick out your tongue
- Place the scraper at the back of your tongue (but not so far back that you gag)
- Pull it forward slowly until you reach the tip of your tongue
- After each pass, wipe the scraper with a cloth or tissue
- Repeat the process until your tongue’s surface is clean, always moving the scraper from the back to the front
- Wash the scraper with soap and water after you’re finished
Are There Any Risks or Side Effects to Using a Tongue Scraper?
Studies have shown that scraping your tongue could decrease oral microbiomes, which can eliminate a source of nitric oxide, thus increasing the risk of hypertension.⁶ But it is important to clean your tongue, so just be careful not to overdo it (i.e., don’t scrape vigorously or so often your tongue becomes raw).
Side effects include irritation if you use your tongue scraper too aggressively. If you still notice irritation no matter how gentle you are, scrape less often or use your toothbrush instead. Also, don’t place the tongue scraper too far back on your tongue, otherwise you’ll test your gag reflex.
Tongue scrapers are useful devices to include in your oral hygiene routine with several benefits and few risks. At the very least, cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush is also helpful and easy to use if you don’t want to add another tool to your daily oral hygiene routine. What is most important is paying as much attention to cleaning your tongue as you do your teeth and gums.
- Almas, K., Al-Sanawi, E., Al-Shahrani, B. (2005, March). The Effect of Tongue Scraper on Mutans Streptococci and Lactobacilli in Patients with Caries and Periodontal Disease. NIH.gov. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16032940/.
- Choi, H., Cho, Y., Koo, J. (2021, December 23). The Effect of Mechanical Tongue Cleaning on Oral Malodor and Tongue Coating. NIH.gov. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8751028/.
- Quirynen, M., Avontroodt, P., Soers, C., Zhao, H., Pauwels, M., Steenberghe, D. (2004, July). Impact of Tongue Cleansers on Microbial Load and Taste. NIH.gov. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15191584/.
- Laleman, I., Koop, R., Teughels, W., Dekeyser, C., Quirynen, M. (2017, October 17). Influence of Tongue Brushing and Scraping on the Oral Microflora of Periodontitis Patients. OnlineLibrary.Wiley.com. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jre.12489.
- Department of Scientific Information, Evidence Synthesis & Translation Research, ADA Science & Research Institute, LLC. (2022, October 7). Toothbrushes. ADA.org. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/toothbrushes.
- Ko, E., Glazier, E. (2022, August 22). Brushing Your Tongue Could Have Adverse Health Effects. UCLAHealth.org., Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://www.uclahealth.org/news/brushing-your-tongue-could-have-adverse-health-effects.