5 Reasons You Should Start Tongue Scraping | Defeat Bad Breath

5 Reasons You Should Start Tongue Scraping | Defeat Bad Breath

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH🔬 Evidence Based
5 Reasons You Should Start Tongue Scraping | Defeat Bad Breath

Does tongue scraping really work? As strange as it sounds, tongue scraping benefits are so good that once you start tongue scraping, you’ll hardly ever go back.

What Is Tongue Scraping?

Tongue scraping is a lesser-known oral hygiene technique that’s specifically designed to clean the bumpy, top-side surface of your tongue. The process removes trapped food debris and bacteria between the tiny little “papilla” that covers the surface of your tongue. Those small, finger-like projections are known for harboring as much as 90% of the bacteria responsible for causing bad breath.

Proper tongue scraping involves using an actual tongue scraper. Not a toothbrush or electric brush. Tongue scrapers tend to be long and slender, where you can curve them in a “U” shape, or they have a hoop-shaped extension off of what looks like a toothbrush handle. Some have flat, smooth surfaces that you drag across your tongue, while others have slightly ribbed edges or tiny little “teeth” that gently scrape your tongue as you use them.  

You can get your tongue far cleaner with a tongue scraper than you will a toothbrush. In fact, you’ll probably be completely shocked—or disgusted—the first time you use one. They’re that effective. Once you’re done using it, rinse it and allow it to air dry. If you need to disinfect it, you can always toss it in the dishwasher or clean it with antimicrobial soap.

5 Benefits Of Scraping Your Tongue 

Why would anyone want to start using a tongue scraper? Well, tongue scraping benefits tend to be something that you have to experience for yourself. If you think about it, you really don’t get your tongue very clean with a toothbrush or mouth rinse. There are still plenty of germs and food debris coating the surface. Once you clean your tongue with a tool that’s designed to do so, it’s a night and day difference.

The benefits of tongue scraping are immediate. And extremely noticeable. But like toothbrushing and flossing, tongue scraping is something you’ll want to do on an everyday basis.

1) Reduce Bad Breath 

The particles that hide between your tongue’s papilla can harbor plenty of odors. Especially if you’ve been eating any smelly foods. Tongue scraping is far better at removing food particles across your tongue than brushing is. When paired with your typical oral hygiene routine, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your breath.

Tongue scrapers just make your mouth cleaner. After you see everything they’re capable of, you won’t want to leave it out of your oral hygiene routine ever again.  

2) Remove Bacteria From The Tongue

It’s not just food particles that hide on your tongue. Any bacteria or dental plaque that doesn’t stick to your teeth can also settle down into the finger-like projections across your tongue’s surface.

In some cases, bacterial infections can develop across the surface of your tongue. You might notice thick layers of white, brown, or black buildup. Sometimes it comes off with a toothbrush, sometimes it doesn’t. A tongue scraper will be more effective at cleaning the area to help you bounce back from an infection. Plus, bacteria are stinky!

3) Improve Appearance 

Healthy tongues have a nice pink color to them. But if there are splotchy areas of white or brown across them, they aren’t just smelly, they’re also unattractive. Even though people don’t spend a lot of time looking at one another’s tongues, it can be a matter of self-confidence, especially if you’re in a romantic relationship with someone else.  

For those people who are prone to heavy residue or buildup across their tongue, tongue scraping is far more effective than brushing back and forth with a toothbrush. One swipe (or three) and you’re done.

4) Improve Overall Health

Having a cleaner tongue means you’re not swallowing all those oral bacteria every time you eat or drink something. It’s the same as brushing your teeth; you don’t want to purposefully swallow all of those plaque bacteria that are stuck across your smile. Cleaning your tongue regularly reduces the overall bacterial load inside of your body. In turn, your GI tract and immune system will thank you!

5) Enhance Sense Of Taste 

When your tongue isn’t coated with thick bacteria, your taste buds come into better contact with your food. You’ll enjoy richer tasting meals and all of the flavors that you couldn’t before. Removing layers of buildup across your tongue can make your palate more sensitive to the rich tastes of all your favorite dishes.  

Does Tongue Scraping Damage Taste Buds?

Does using a tongue scraper physically damage your papilla or the taste buds on your tongue? If used properly, no. Just like brushing your tongue doesn’t scrub off tastebuds either. But if you were extremely aggressive, of course, you could damage the soft tissue.

Taste buds are situated on different parts of your tongue, with each one capturing different types of tastes. That’s why things may taste weird if you burn your tongue, have raw patches on it, or there is a fungal coating across it.

Tongue scraping won’t damage your taste buds. In fact, it might actually help them to work even better than before (because germs won’t be covering them.)

How To Use A Tongue Scraper The Right Way

Yes, there is a right and wrong way to use a tongue scraper. If not used properly, tongue scraping will be painful, ineffective, or even hurt your tongue.

When using a tongue scraper, always drag it from back to front. Stick your tongue out as far as you can, then place the loop of the scraper as far back as comfortable (more on this in a bit.) Press the tongue scraper down against your tongue using moderate pressure, then slowly drag it forward toward the tip of your tongue.

This is where you want to pause for a moment. Stop. Look down at your tongue scraper. You’ll thank me later (if you’re not completely disgusted.) Seeing is believing, my friends.

Briefly rinse your tongue scraper off, then repeat the process 2-3 more times or until you feel like your tongue is fairly clean.

You really only need to use a tongue scraper once a day. But if you prefer, you can use it as often as you brush. Just be gentle if you’re tongue scraping more than once a day.

Side Effects & Risks Of Using A Tongue Scraper 

The #1 side effect of tongue scraping is—you guessed it—gagging. If you’re someone who has a sensitive gag reflex, putting something on the back of your tongue is going to set off all sorts of instincts. For the rest of us, it doesn’t make a difference at all.

People with a sensitive gag reflex can ease into tongue scraping by starting out only cleaning the front of their tongue, then working their way further back the more often they use it. Also, smiling is a natural way to inhibit your gag reflex. Yes, it’s difficult to smile and stick out your tongue, but it’s worth a try.

When To See Your Dentist

For tips and advice on tongue scraping, ask your hygienist or dentist during your routine checkup. Otherwise, it’s fine to use it on your own. But if you’re not seeing an improvement in buildup on your tongue, your food tastes weird, or you’re still experiencing chronic bad breath, it’s time to see your dentist.

Chronic halitosis may be a deeper issue that requires clinical dental treatment. Or if there’s thick residue across your tongue, it may also be some type of infection, requiring medication.

Typically, you can address these issues during your standard six-month checkup. For aggressive and especially problematic symptoms, feel free to request an exam even sooner.

Why Do I Get Bad Breath?

Halitosis (aka chronic bad breath) can come from a number of different sources. One being gum disease, which causes infected and dying tissues down around the roots of your teeth. Another is mouth breathing, which alters the normal oral flora inside of your mouth.

Infections such as thrush (a type of yeast infection) can also cause bad breath. People who are taking antibiotics or who are immunocompromised tend to be the most susceptible to those things.

And then there’s the malodor that comes straight from the foods you’re eating. Things like garlic, eggs, and fish are just a few examples. Even after you eat them, the odor can stick around for hours. Why? Because tiny little food particles can settle into your tongue or even be secreted through gas in your GI tract.  

Clinically speaking, unless you have gum disease, most of your bad breath odors typically come from your tongue. That’s why tongue scraping benefits are so worthwhile!

Start Tongue Scraping Today! 

You can buy a tongue scraper on any grocery store aisle. Chances are, you’ve just overlooked them in the past. Once you get started, tongue scraping benefits are instant. Even using it once a day can have a huge impact on your breath, the way your food tastes, and the health of your mouth. 

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Last updated onNovember 12, 2023Here is our process

Related Articles