The Science Behind Tongue Scrapers: Do They Actually Work?!

July 26, 2020

After an annual trip to the dentist, my interest in oral hygiene kicked into full gear. One night, I found myself awake at 2 AM, scrolling through countless posts detailing healthy habits for your mouth. Alongside the obvious articles discussing the importance of flossing, mouthwash use and brushing your pearly whites, I stumbled into the world of tongue cleaners. 

When we talk about oral hygiene, your tongue is frequently left out of the picture. Not one of my dentists in the span of 20+ years has ever commented on the appearance of my tongue nor the importance of keeping it clean. But, your tongue deserves some more credit. 

Your tongue is pretty incredible; it helps you swallow, taste, speak and chew. Did you know that it’s appearance can be a leading indicator of your overall health? Your tongue is also home to the hundreds of microorganisms, like bacteria, fungus and more, that live in your mouth. Some of these microbes generate plaque, which later coats your teeth and gums. This coating of plaque contributes to health issues like tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath also known as Halitosis. Cleaning your tongue with a tool like a tongue scraper or tongue cleaner is an effective way to remove microorganisms and promote overall mouth health. Tongue scraping has become a part of my daily routine and I cannot recommend it to enough people.

What Is a Tongue Scraper?

A tongue scraper, also known as a tongue cleaner, is a small dental tool that is made from plastic or metal. This tool can be used to literally scrape the gunk off of your tongue. If you wake up to your tongue coated in white or yellow buildup (bacteria, plaque and dead cells) a tongue scraper is a safe, easy and inexpensive method of removing it.

Can’t I Just Use a Toothbrush?

Tooth Brushing is not as effective at preventing odor causing bacteria as using a tongue scraper. The soft bristles on your toothbrush just loosen and spread bacteria around the surface of your tongue. A tongue scraper has a harder surface making it better able to scrape off any gunk that is sitting on your tongue.  

A study conducted in 2001 found that tongue cleaners were 27% more effective at reducing bacteria linked to bad breath compared to a toothbrush. TDLR tongue scrapers prevent bad breath.

Tongue Scraper Benefits

  1. Improve your sense of taste. A research study conducted in 2004 found that the daily use of a tongue scraper can help improve your sense of taste. Turns out getting rid of that layer of tongue gunk makes it easier for your taste buds to do their job. 
  2. Improve the appearance of your tongue. Having a layer of white or yellow residue on your tongue is not cute. Just scrape it all off with a tongue cleaner!
  3. Remove bacteria. Tongue bacteria can cause cavities, gum disease, and other conditions that negatively affect the health of your mouth. By scraping your tongue on a daily basis, you remove some of this bacteria and protect your overall mouth health. 
  4. Prevent bad breath or Halitosis. Stop feeling self-conscious about your bad breath. Giving your tongue a daily scrape has been shown to reduce the occurrence of the bacteria linked to bad breath. 

How to Use a Tongue Scraper

Using a tongue scraper is easy and only adds about a minute to your oral hygiene routine. It’s important that you use your tongue cleaner twice a day—once in the morning and then again in the evening. This will ensure that your tongue stays healthy and clean. 

Step 1: Stand in front of a mirror and stick out your tongue.

Step 2: Place the rounded end of your tongue scraper on the back of your tongue.

Step 3: Applying gentle pressure to scrape your tongue cleaner down toward the tip of your tongue. Repeat until all of the gunk is removed from your tongue.

TIP: Never use your tongue cleaner in the opposite direction: from the tip of your tongue to the back. This could result in you swallowing all off that gunk you are trying to remove. 

How to Clean Your Tongue Scraper

Cleaning your tongue scraper couldn’t be easier. Just rinse off the gunk using warm water from your faucet. If there is still some residue attached to your tongue cleaner, apply some soap to scrub it off. Once sanitized, store your tongue scraper in a clean, dry area. 

Best Tongue Scrapers

If you are wondering where to buy a tongue scraper, they are sold at major retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Target. Tongue cleaners can also be purchased online and shipped directly to your home.

1. Best Plastic Tongue Scraper, Scrape Your Tongue

Price: $6.99

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.4/5 Stars)

This is the tongue scraper I own. I love how easy it is to use and how it never makes me gag.

2. Best Metal Tongue Scraper, Dr. Tung

Price: $8.95

Rating: ★★★★★ (4.7/5 Stars)

How Often Should You Replace a Tongue Scraper?

Your tongue scraper is not single use so don’t throw it out! That said, you should plan on replacing your tongue scraper every 3 months, just like your toothbrush. 

It’s advised that you replace your tongue scraper sooner if you have gotten sick with a virus like strep throat. Starting fresh with a new scraper will help prevent you from reinfecting yourself.

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