How to use a tongue scraper
About 80% of halitosis (bad breath) cases are caused by a layer of rotting food particles, dead cells and bacteria trapped in the tongue papillae.
Most people know that teeth brushing and flossing are vital for maintaining a good level of oral health. Relatively fewer people realize just how important tongue scraping is if you want to truly give your mouth a proper cleanse.
Bad breath is a very common oral health complaint. Experts state that about 80% of halitosis (bad breath) cases are caused by a layer of rotting food particles, dead cells and bacteria trapped in the tongue papillae. Large colonies of bad bacteria can generate the volatile sulphur compounds (VSC) responsible for oral malodour.
Many people routinely rinse their mouths with medicinal mouthwashes to dispel any suggestion of bad breath, unfortunately this merely masks the condition for a short period of time. In order to remove the root cause of the problem the best treatment is to mechanically remove the buildup of food debris and bacteria from the mouth.
Tongue scrapers are designed for the sole purpose of removing food debris and bacteria from the tongue’s dorsal surface. Unlike toothbrushes, a well-designed scraper will have a low profile so the user can get them right to the back of the mouth without causing excessive gagging.
Tongue cleaners are available in many shapes and sizes. Some are U-shaped and designed to be held in both hands while other models are more t-shaped and can be held in one hand. In addition, there are also attachments for electric toothbrushes and Waterpik water flossers.
Although western civilizations have been slow to adopt tongue scraping, many cultures have been cleaning their tongues as part of their daily oral hygiene routine for thousands of years.
Ancient Ayurvedic medicine believed that any food debris, dead cells, fungi and bacteria that collect on the tongue surface was absorbed into the body and could cause medical conditions. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that toxins from the tongue can cause a weakening of the immune system, digestive problems, weight gain, acne, flatulence and bloating. Throughout the centuries tongue scrapers made out of wood, bone, mother of pearl, copper or gold were used to improve oral hygiene and general wellness.
Today’s scrapers are usually made from plastic, stainless steel or copper and are primarily used to prevent bad breath, improve dental health and improve the sense of taste. Check out our best tongue scraper guide.
Step by step use of a manual tongue scraper
- Hold the handle of the tongue scraper, or if it is a U-shaped, hold both handles of the cleaner.
- Start at the rear of the tongue and pull the scraper forward to the tip of the tongue with an even, moderate pressure.
- If gagging occurs, start at one side of the tongue and drag to the opposite edge.
- Rinse any debris off of the scraper with water.
- Resume scraping and cover every area of the tongue with overlapping strokes. Continue until there is no residue left on the scraper on removal.
- Rinse mouth with water or mouthwash to further cleanse mouth.
- Once the tongue scraping process is complete, rinse and clean the scraper with water and allow to air dry.
Tips – Research has shown that using a medicinal tongue spray or gel can further enhance the tongue cleaning process.
How to use a Sonicare TongueCare+
Using a toothbrush attachment that has been specifically designed for tongue cleaning can be an easy way to give your tongue some love.
How to use a Tung brush and gel
A brush and gel combination can be the most pleasant cleaning experience foe some people. Adding a gel or spray can further enhance the cleaning session and make the mouth feel extra clean.
How to use a Dr. Tung Scraper
Some people find that a two-handed scraper gives a more even, controlled clean. A U-shaped metal blade is a good choice for people who have a heavy coating on their tongues.
Do tongue scrapers really work?
Although health practitioners in many cultures have advocated the use of a tongue scraper and cleaner for thousands of years, it is only relatively recently that western culture has shown and interest in the relationship between the bacteria harbored on the tongue and medical conditions of the mouth and body.
Research conducted in the Department of Periodontology at the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA) concluded that using a mechanical device like a tongue scraper or tongue cleaning brush can successfully remove the coating from the tongue surface and reduce levels of bad breath.
How often should you use a tongue scraper?
Every dentist will recommend brushing your teeth twice a day to prevent the buildup of bacterial plaque and cleaning your tongue should be treated with the same regular care.
If you wake up in the morning with a dry mouth or a bad taste in your mouth is is very likely that you are suffering from “morning breath”, a condition that directly causes bad breath. There are a number of reasons that morning breath occurs and the two most common causes are poor oral hygiene and dry mouth. When we sleep, our natural production of saliva decreases and the chemical balance of our mouth is disrupted. This creates the perfect environment for the bacteria that produce the vile-smelling sulfur compounds that cause bad breath. By tongue scraping morning and night, you can reduce the bacterial load from your mouth and lessen the chance of bad breath.
Can tongue scrapers damage taste buds?
There is no evidence to suggest that tongue scraping causes any damage to taste buds. In fact research at the University of Leuven in Belgium showed that by cleaning your tongue with a scraper for a period of two weeks you can improve your sense of taste.
Tips – When you clean your tongue with a scraper it can make the tissue feel tender. Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure, especially if you are using a hard metal scraper.
We have picked out a selection of tongue care products to suit mouths of all different shapes and sizes.
Small profile head with micro-groove technology. A perfect choice for small mouths.
Stiff bristled brush that is designed to be used with TUNG’s odor neutralizing cleaning gel.
U-shaped blade made of stainless steel uses a curved edge to quickly remove soft deposits.
The Orabrush uses micro-pointed bristles combined with a scraper to disrupt and remove the maximum amount of tongue coating.
An attachment for Philips Sonicare toothbrushes. 240 micro-bristles vibrate at 31,000 movements per minute to give a deep-penetrating clean.
Philips BreathRx uses a combination of Cetylpyridinium chloride, Zinc, Thymol, and eucalyptus essential oils to kill odor-causing bacteria.
Authors & Contributors
Int J Dent Hygiene 8, 2010; 258–268
Van der Sleen MI, Slot DE, Van Trijffel E, Winkel EG, Van der Weijden GA. The effect of mechanical tongue cleaning on breath odor and tongue coating: a systematic review.
Tongue scraping for treating halitosis Review
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews – Tongue scraping for treating halitosis Review
Authors – Trent L Outhouse, Rashad Al‐Alawi, Zbys Fedorowicz, James V Keenan
Clinical efficacy of a new tooth and tongue gel applied with a tongue cleaner in reducing oral halitosis.
Wilhelm D1, Himmelmann A, Axmann EM, Wilhelm KP.
proDERM Institute for Applied Dermatological Research, Schenefeld, Germany.
Department of Periodontology, School of Dentistry, Oral Pathology and Maxillo-Facial Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Catholic University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. [email protected]