Even if you’re an oral hygiene all-star who brushes your teeth twice a day, flosses regularly and dutifully visits your dentist every six months, you may still be missing one step that could help keep your mouth fresh and healthy.

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It’s your tongue – that fleshy collection of muscles that helps you speak, chew and swallow. It’s covered in little bumps called papillae that allow you to taste and feel textures in your mouth.

But your tongue can also harbor bacteria, dental hygienist Tenika Patterson, RDH, explains.

While most of those bacteria are the “good kind” that foster a healthy environment in your mouth, other kinds can cause bad breath, tooth decay and gum infections.

So, cleaning your tongue is important to keep that bad bacteria, as well as food debris and dead cells that may accumulate there, from causing trouble.

How to clean your tongue

Brushing your tongue gently a few times with a toothbrush and toothpaste is an easy first step, since you’re already in there brushing your teeth twice a day anyway.

But tongue scraping can do a better job at removing that plaque and bacteria off the tongue’s surface, Ms. Patterson advises.

“Brushing is OK to do, but think about it this way — if your carpet is dirty and you scrub it, the dirt’s going to get embedded down in there,” she explains. “But if you scrape it, it’s going to come right off the surface.”

Indeed, studies suggest that tongue scraping can remove bacteria and improve bad breath more than brushing.

Tongue scraping devices made from plastic, copper or stainless steel are available at most drug stores and generally cost under $10.

Brush, floss, scrape

Here’s how to add tongue scraping to your routine in the morning and at night.

Brush your teeth, floss and rinse like you normally would. Then, stick your tongue out and use light pressure to run the scraper across the entire surface of your tongue once or twice, starting all the way at the back of the tongue and scraping toward the front. It shouldn’t hurt or do any damage to the tongue – if it does, use less pressure.

Rinse the scraper in warm water after each pass, and finish by rinsing it again and swishing your mouth out with water.

It’s a quick and simple last step, but it can help leave your mouth feeling squeaky clean.

If your tongue gives off any visual clues that it’s not healthy — like white, black or red discoloration, or sores or pain that persist for more than two weeks – see your dentist.

Using a Tongue Cleaner for a Cleaner Mouth

In addition to using a toothbrush to clean your teeth, you can improve your mouth’s freshness by using a tongue cleaner. Millions of bacteria collect on your tongue, and simply brushing your teeth doesn’t remove those bacteria. Tongue bacteria produce volatile sulfur compounds, which can cause bad breath. The bacteria may also have the potential to cause other health issues.

Tongue Cleaning Tools

You have three choices for cleaning your tongue. You can use a tongue scraper, brush your tongue with your regular toothbrush or use a specially made tongue brush. A tongue scraper is the traditional method for cleaning the tongue. Today, you can buy scrapers made from plastic or metal. Simply place the edge of the tool on the back of your tongue, and gently pull the scraper forward.

Some people use a regular toothbrush to clean the tongue. The disadvantage of using a regular toothbrush on the tongue is that the bristles are designed to clean the smooth surfaces of your teeth. Your tongue is a rough surface with many tiny crevices, and regular toothbrush bristles may not do a thorough cleaning job. A 2004 study in the Journal of Periodontology showed that a toothbrush reduced the production of volatile sulfur compounds by 45 percent while a tongue scraper reduced production by 75 percent.

Your third choice for tongue cleaning is a tongue brush with bristles designed to clean out the crevices of the tongue. A 2008 study in the Journal of Applied Oral Sciences showed that this relatively recent invention performs with about the same effectiveness as a traditional tongue scraper. You can even buy combination products, such as the Colgate® 360°® toothbrush, which have a toothbrush on one side and a tongue brush on the other.

Using Your Tongue Cleaner

You can clean your tongue either before or after you brush your teeth; no studies support a particular cleaning order. Your tongue is sensitive, so it’s important to be gentle and not to press the cleaner too forcefully into your tongue. Here are a few more general cleaning tips:

  • Rinse your tongue cleaner before and after using it to remove bacteria and food debris that may be present.
  • Start cleaning at the back of your tongue, and work your way forward.
  • Scrape and clean the entire top and side surfaces of your tongue, not just the center.
  • If you use a tongue brush, move it the same way you moved the tongue cleaner from the back of the tongue to the front of the tongue. You may have to use this method a few times in order to adequately clean your entire tongue.
  • Rinse the tongue brush or tongue scraper off after you use it to remove bacteria and any food debris from the areas of the tongue you cleaned.
  • Rinse your mouth after cleaning your tongue.

Cleaning your tongue may be a new venture for you. Try these different methods to find the one that works best for you. Tongue cleaners are inexpensive. They boost oral hygiene while helping to prevent bad breath.

I’d like to think I’m pretty on top of my oral hygiene. I brush my teeth twice a day every day. I also try to stick to experts’ recommendation that I brush for a full two minutes every time.

But until recently, even I, Two-Minute Tooth Brushing Girl, was missing a crucial component from my oral hygiene routine: I wasn’t cleaning my tongue. As it turns out, brushing or scraping your tongue may help you get rid of grody bacteria that can cause bad breath.

Though the American Dental Association says brushing your tongue isn’t a necessary step for good oral health in the same way brushing your teeth and flossing are, some evidence shows it can help tame breath that reeks. At the very least, it might make your mouth feel really clean. Here’s why cleaning your tongue can be a good idea, plus the right way to do it, if you’re so inclined.

Your mouth is full of bacteria, but that’s not automatically a problem. In fact, it’s a good thing for your oral hygiene.

Though tons of bacteria are hanging out in your mouth at any given moment, most of them aren’t harmful, Lisa Simon, D.M.D., an oral health and medicine integration fellow at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, tells SELF. It seems completely counterintuitive, but many bacteria in your mouth protect you by keeping out foreign organisms, like disease-causing pathogens, Philip Tierno, Ph.D., director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center, tells SELF.

The problem is that even though most of the bacteria in your mouth is doing you a solid, sometimes it doesn’t smell great.

A lot of the bacteria living in your mouth are anaerobic, meaning they don’t need oxygen to survive, Dr. Tierno says. These anaerobic bacteria—including the ones on your tongue—can produce various byproducts, including sulfur compounds, which can smell like straight-up trash.

How bad the sulfur smells will vary, Sally Cram, D.D.S., a periodontist based in Washington, D.C., tells SELF. For example, if you’ve eaten recently, bad breath can get way more pronounced because anaerobic bacteria can feed on food debris, break it down, and release those smelly sulfur compounds.

Having a dry mouth can also make the smell more severe, Dr. Cram says. This can happen if you’re dehydrated or if you have the aptly named condition dry mouth. Saliva neutralizes bacterial acids and limits bacterial growth, according to the Mayo Clinic, so when your spit is running low, bacteria may be able to cause more of a smell.

The bacteria that causes bad breath is usually non-pathogenic, meaning it’s not harmful or disease-causing, Dr. Tierno says. But sometimes, bad breath could mean you have an infection, like gum disease, aka periodontitis. If your bad breath is accompanied by symptoms like swollen gums, bleeding gums, loose teeth, or painful chewing, you should talk to your dentist.

Now, how do you actually clean your tongue? Grab a tongue scraper or toothbrush and get to work.

Cleaning your tongue is pretty easy, Vera Tang, D.D.S., a New York-based dentist, tells SELF. You can either use a tongue scraper or toothbrush once or twice a day after brushing your teeth.

If you have a strong gag reflex, Dr. Tang recommends you use a tongue scraper, because it’s flatter and may feel less intrusive than a toothbrush. But if you’d rather not spring for a tongue scraper, you can use the same toothbrush you use on your teeth every day. Since your tongue and teeth touch all the time and share a ton of bacteria, you don’t need a separate toothbrush to clean them, Dr. Simon says.

5 Tips For Using a Tongue Cleaner to Ensure a Healthy Mouth

Bensonhurst DentalFollow Jul 28, 2016 · 4 min read

Most people know that brushing your teeth twice a day is the norm today and is really important for maintaining healthy teeth and preventing cavities. However, tongue cleaning is a vital part of the oral health routine that should not be ignored. The food we eat every day tends to leave behind debris not only in between the teeth and gums but also on the surface of the tongue, getting trapped in the cavities of the tongue, in some cases more or less, depending on the anatomy of the tongue.

Just like plaque forms on the teeth from everyday food consumption, plaque can form on the tongue and with it harboring microorganisms and bacteria. The result is most often bad breath. But if left untreated, for long periods of time, bacteria left lingering on the tongue can contribute to periodontal diseases just like plaque in between the teeth can. Periodontal disease has been linked to diabetes and artery disease, as well as stroke, so doing everything possible to prevent the build up of plaque and microorganisms that cause periodontal disease is the key to overall health.

Here are some tips for cleaning the tongue properly:

Use a Tongue Cleaner — you can use a toothbrush to clean your tongue during your everyday tooth brushing session, however, a toothbrush will not be as effective at cleaning off the bacteria and layer of plaque that harbors microorganisms as a tongue cleaner. A dedicated tongue cleaner that is designed to scrape the build up off your tongue will be much more effective at getting rid of the build up. Additionally, using a dedicated tongue cleaner is much more hygienic as it will prevent trapping additional bacteria in the bristles of your toothbrush.

Clean Your Tongue Daily — Cleaning your tongue daily should be a natural part of your everyday oral health care routine, along with brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Additionally, if you consume any particularly pigmented or pungent foods, you should clean your tongue after eating in order to prevent bad breath. If you eat garlic or onion, for example, cleaning your tongue right after will greatly reduce the odor stemming from having eaten those foods. If you eat chocolate or drink wine, there will inevitably be a color coating on your tongue, which can easily be removed using a tongue scraper.

Pick a Tongue Scraper That Works For You — There are many tongue cleaners on the market today, all designed to accomplish the task of scraping the layer of plaque and bacteria accumulated on the surface of the tongue throughout daily consumption of food. There are scrapers which are metal or plastic, ones with bristles on the ends and ones without. It may take some trial and error to find one that works for you, but the good news is that they are relatively inexpensive, but an incredibly good investment when it comes to long-term oral health. If your tongue has deep crevices, a scraper with bristles might be best, or if you feel your tongue is a bit sensitive, then a basic plastic one might work for you. You can start with one that you find at your local drugstore or Amazon, and see if it works for you and go from there.

Take Your Time — If you haven’t used a tongue cleaner in the past, it might be a bit of an adjustment to get used to it. Some people have a gag reflex which may prevent them from scraping properly. To help with that, it might be easier to start by stretching the tongue out fully, holding it stiff and scraping from back to front. After a while, the tongue should get used to the motion of the scraper and it will be easier to clean. Take it slow, and experiment with different speeds of motion and different styles of scrapers to figure out what works for you.

Focus on the center/back of the tongue — the tip of your tongue is generally self-cleaning due to the constant friction of it with the upper palate when speaking. It is on the back of the tongue where most of the debris accumulates and bacteria harbors. When cleaning, you don’t have to reach all the way to the very back but focus on the smooth central part of the tongue. When you stick out your tongue, it will be fairly easy to see the accumulated coating of debris and plaque, and you will see immediate clearing of it once you scrape the surface of the tongue. You will need a few rounds of scraping to ensure the coating is removed, but once it is, you will be left with a cleaner mouth and fresher breath.

When paired with a complete oral health routine including brushing, flossing, and rinsing, tongue cleaning can help prevent periodontal disease and other systemic diseases by removing harmful bacteria and microorganisms from your mouth and preventing them from invading your system. Not to mention leaving you with a clean mouth, fresh breath, and bright smile.

Dentists and dental hygienists despair every time they are confronted with a patient who has been told they are suffering from gum disease (gingivitis) or are at risk of decay, and three or six months down the line when they are recalled, they’ve not acted on our advice. Then they wonder why their gums are bleeding like Niagara Falls or they have a cavity the size of Stow-on-the-Wold.

The news that the turnover of dental products in the UK appears to be growing has to be welcomed, but after having had some really hard days over the first couple of weeks of the school holidays, it doesn’t feel like increased oral hygiene product sales is translating into mouths safe enough to put your teeth in. It’s one thing buying the stuff, but it’s another thing entirely using it. “Interdental brushes? Yes we’ve got some in the bathroom cabinet. No, I don’t use them, the wife does though.” Some of the time I wonder whether patients are actually using the hairy end of the toothbrush.

The most common cause of loss of teeth in adults is advanced gum disease (chronic periodontitis), where bacteria in the mouth that form plaque cause the body to produce inflammatory products to attack the bugs, but in doing so, causes shrinkage of the gums. Ultimately the jawbone can shrink to the point where teeth can become loose and lost (always try looking down the back of the sofa first).

So with all these products increasingly available, what do you do with them? Brushing at least twice a day thoroughly is the minimum requirement to reduce the risk of gum disease and decay. Theoretically, if you removed all the plaque in your mouth through brushing, that would be enough to protect your teeth. The fact is, most people can’t – even dentists.

Electric or manual? It doesn’t matter as long as you are brushing just under the gums – ignore any bleeding, it means you are getting to the right place with the brush. A soft brush is better than a hard one since it’ll get into all the nooks and crannies.

I don’t care if you have won prizes for brushing, using floss or interdentals once a day reaches the parts brushes can’t reach. Bugs love crevices. (Crevice and tartar are the two words I feel most ridiculous saying out loud to patients.)

What about mouthwashes? Mouthwashes are a lazy person’s floss. Chlorhexidine is a mouthwash dentists prescribe in severe cases of gum disease short-term – a side-effect of use is black teeth and increased blood pressure, so don’t try this at home, kids. A good mouthwash is OK as an adjunct to brushing and flossing but it can take the roof of your mouth off. Fluoride mouthwashes are useful for protecting against decay but only if recommended by dentists.

Chewing sugar-free gum can neutralise plaque acids and protect against decay, but it can give a false sense of security. Avoiding sugar in the first place is the best policy.

If you are prone to gum problems, a regular date with the hygienist is recommended – take chocolates, they don’t appreciate flowers. Hygienists can turn oral health around, providing the patient plays ball. These people are magic, albeit stern disciplinarians, and have usually trained at Hogwarts.

Finally, a newish thing is the tongue-scraper. The idea is that it removes the deposits on the tongue (I like to call this “munge”) that are thought to cause halitosis. Effectiveness? Jury is out. Some people think it helps (that may include tongue-scraper manufacturers), but it may not. Personally, I am unable to judge – I always wear a mask.

We all know the importance of regular brushing and flossing, but a clean tongue is equally as important when it comes to good oral health. Using a tongue scraper to regularly remove built-up bacteria, food particles, and other debris will help you achieve better-smelling breath and overall better oral health.
With so many different designs, materials, and additional features to choose from, narrowing down the best tongue scraper for you can be difficult. Luckily, we’ve outlined everything you need to consider in our shopping guide. You’ll also find a list of tongue scraper recommendations, including our favorite pick, the Tongue Sweeper’s Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner, which is both easy to use and effective.
Considerations when choosing tongue cleaners
Tongue scrapers use a flat rounded surface to gently scrape bacterial buildup off of your tongue.
Tongue brushes use a bunch of soft tiny bristles to loosen the bacteria and debris on your tongue. However, they are not effective at removing the buildup. Typically, you would use a tongue brush prior to using your tongue scraper.
Two-in-one tongue scrapers combine a basic scraper with a tongue brush. These two-in-one designs are convenient, but not all models will be as effective as a high-end tongue scraper.
Size is important in terms of tongue cleaners. If you choose a head that’s too wide, it can be uncomfortable or nearly impossible to use without gagging. You’ll also want to consider the length of the handle. As a general rule, it should be slightly longer than your tongue, so you can easily reach the back of your mouth.
Tongue cleaners come in a few different shapes. You can find simple single-handle varieties with a rounded scraper on top. There are also dual-handle options made from a single piece of metal that curves in an arch formation. Both are effective, but you may find one option more comfortable to use than the other.
Stainless steel, copper, and plastic are the most commonly used materials when it comes to tongue scrapers. While plastic is affordable and can be gentler on your tongue, steel or copper tend to be the more effective options. If you’re new to tongue scraping, you may opt to start with a plastic scraper and work your way up to a stainless steel option when you’re comfortable with the technique.
While all tongue cleaners have a handle of some kind, some are easier to grip than others. You’ll often find long slender handles that look nice but can be more difficult to hold onto. There are also wide-based handles and handles reinforced with a comfortable rubber material for easy grip and better handling.
Generally speaking, tongue cleaners are relatively inexpensive, ranging from about $4 to $20 in most cases. You can find a multipack of plastic tongue cleaners for as low as $6. Though it’s worth noting that these plastic options will need to be replaced more frequently. If you want to spend a little extra money, opt for a longer-lasting stainless steel or copper tongue cleaner.
Q. How often should I replace my tongue cleaner?
A. This depends on the material. Plastic tongue cleaners will need to be replaced as frequently as your toothbrush. Steel or copper, on the other hand, can last for long periods of time when cared for and properly cleaned.
Q. How often should I clean my tongue?
A. For the best results, you should incorporate tongue scraping into your morning and nightly brushing and flossing routines.
Tongue cleaners we recommend
Best of the best: Tongue Sweeper’s Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner
Our take: A high-quality tongue cleaner that makes reaching the back of your tongue easier than before.
What we like: Constructed from durable medical grade stainless steel. Resistant to bacteria. Slim head and handle make it easy to reach the back of your tongue. Smooth but effective edges. Different-colored bands help distinguish which tongue cleaner belongs to you if every family owns one.
What we dislike: Sits at a higher price point than some.
Best bang for your buck: Dr. Tung’s Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner
Our take: An easy-to-use and affordable option that effectively removes built-up bacteria.
What we like: Curved stainless steel head is gentle and effective. Material is resistant to bacteria and simple to clean. Large rubber handles offer a comfortable grip. Comes from a trusted brand.
What we dislike: To avoid mildew, you must take extra care to fully dry the rubber handles after each use.
Choice 3: Orabrush’s Tongue Cleaner
Our take: A pack of four tongue cleaners that each offer both a brush and scraper, ideal for families.
What we like: Fine bristles on brushes help loosen buildup, while the scraper effectively removes it. Comfortable grip. Available in multiple colors. Dishwasher-safe.
What we dislike: Will need to be replaced every couple of months.
Amber Van Wort is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The Benefits of Tongue Scraping

Cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper dates back to ancient times in India, but its benefits have recently gained a lot of attention in the West. Scraping your tongue stands to reward anyone willing to give it a try, and it is worth understanding the advantages a tongue scraper has to offer your overall health and well-being.

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Why Scrape My Tongue?

  • Clears toxins, bacteria, and dead cells from the tongue to prevent bad breath
  • Enhances the sense of taste
  • Promotes overall oral and digestive health
  • Gently stimulates the internal organs
  • Increases your awareness of your state of health

How Do I Know If I Should Clean My Tongue?

Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins from our food, beverages, and the environment; even our own metabolic wastes and unresolved emotions can lead to toxicity. When toxins are not properly digested and eliminated, they accumulate in the body and begin to compromise our well-being and immunity. Signs that toxins have begun to accumulate in the body are:6

  • A white coating on the tongue
  • Foul-smelling breath or body odor
  • Mental fog or confusion
  • Overall sense of stagnation or weakness
  • Generalized body aches
  • Diminished appetite
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue or lethargy

If you identify with one or more of the above, chances are that there is some level of toxicity in your system. The good news is that Ayurveda offers a myriad of tools for cleansing your system of these toxins. A tongue scraper is a fabulous way to start. And if you’re not sure how to clean your tongue with a tongue scraper, it’s super easy!

The Tongue—The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In some cases, bad breath is the result of some sort of periodontal problem, and it is therefore a good idea to see your physician or dentist if halitosis (or bad breath) is a recent condition. Current research indicates that most cases of halitosis (85-90% of them) are a result of the metabolic outputs of naturally occurring bacteria inside the mouth, most of these on the surface of the tongue.2

The very back of the tongue provides a particularly hospitable environment for many anaerobic bacteria because it is relatively undisturbed by normal activity in the mouth, it is drier than other parts of the mouth, it tends to be poorly cleansed, and it often harbors a number of substances on which the bacteria feed—tiny remnants of food, dead epithelial cells, and postnasal drip, to name a few.

These same bacteria have been implemented as players in periodontal problems, accumulation of plaque, tooth decay, and gum ailments, and there is mounting evidence that these bacteria are also linked to several systemic pathologies.1

Tongue Scraping for Balanced Oral Bacteria

So, let’s kill the bacteria, right? Well, not so fast. These bacteria are a necessary part of our natural flora and, when in balance, they actually help to protect against other potential issues.2

It’s true that good oral hygiene can help keep bacteria in check so that they can serve their purpose without wreaking havoc. Using a tongue scraper to scrape the tongue gently dislodges bacteria, as well as their food source, and is therefore one of the most effective means of combating tongue bacteria.

A healthy mouth and fresh breath are understandably very high on the priority list for many people. Halitosis is in fact a condition that can have a tremendously negative impact on a person’s life, relationships, and self-esteem.

Clinical studies have shown that the daily use of a tongue scraper results in a significant reduction in the anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath and other problems.1, 3, 4

In addition to brushing your teeth and flossing, the Ayurvedic practices of tongue scraping and oil pulling can have a tremendous impact on your oral health.

Scrape Your Tongue for Improved Digestion & Taste

Amazingly, the benefits of using a tongue scraper reach far beyond the bounds of oral hygiene and fresh breath.

In Ayurveda, proper digestion is the cornerstone of health; it is literally the process by which our daily intake of food nourishes our tissues and ultimately, our state of consciousness. Healthy digestion also protects the body against the accumulation of toxins and ensures the proper elimination of wastes.5

Inspecting Your Tongue to Gauge Your Overall Health

Many systems of medicine, including Ayurveda, use tongue diagnosis as a window into the internal workings of the body. This is one reason doctors have you stick out your tongue.

Different parts of the tongue are related to the lungs, the heart, the stomach, the liver, the spleen, the kidneys, and the intestines. A tongue scraper gently removes toxins from the tongue itself and simultaneously stimulates, massages, and cleanses the associated organs and deep tissues.6

Because the tongue reflects the health of so many vital organs, systemic imbalances (and improvements) are reflected on the surface of the tongue. Using a tongue scraper daily allows you to take note of any significant changes that may indicate variations in your own internal state of balance.

Including a Tongue Scraper in Your Daily Routine

Having a daily routine is one of the most important tenents of Ayurveda. As the body becomes accustomed to the predictability of doing the same things at roughly the same time every day, the nervous system begins to relax.

A morning routine, in particular, affords us an opportunity to prioritize those things that are most important while setting a positive tone for the entire day.7 A typical Ayurvedic morning routine would include meditation, grooming practices (including the use of a tongue scraper), exercise, and bathing.

Adding the use of a tongue scraper to your daily routine assists the body in eliminating toxins that have accumulated in the mouth overnight. It also massages and awakens the internal organs, stimulates the digestive capacity, and ensures that you start your day feeling as fresh and clean as possible.

Buying a Tongue Scraper

Banyan’s tongue cleaner is specifically designed to maximize the benefits of scraping the tongue daily. It mirrors the design of the tongue scrapers that have long been used in India. The wide shape is designed to cleanse tongues of all shapes and sizes and offers a broad area for cleaning the entire tongue with each stroke.

Banyan’s tongue scraper is made of premium quality stainless steel and is manufactured in the USA. It is sturdy and long lasting—the only tongue scraper you will ever need!

For more ways to support your oral health, check out our complete collection of oral health products.

Your dentist harps on brushing and flossing, but has s/he ever mentioned tongue scraping? Tongue scraping is the unsung hero of dental health. An unscraped tongue is unhygienic, smelly, and bad for the health of the rest of your body.

If you’re not tongue scraping, the good news is this: it’s incredibly simple and takes seconds to do.


Ask the Dentist is supported by readers. If you use one of the links below and buy something, Ask the Dentist makes a little bit of money at no additional cost to you. I rigorously research, test, and use thousands of products every year, but recommend only a small fraction of these. I only promote products that I truly feel will be valuable to you in improving your oral health.

Here are six great reasons to tongue scrape:

1. Enhance the flavors of your food.

Tongue scraping enhances your taste buds and the flavors you experience by removing the gunk that builds up on your tongue. When your tongue is coated in this buildup, your taste buds aren’t fully exposed and cannot completely experience the wonderful flavors in your food.

2. Improve heart health.

Poor dental hygiene is linked to cardiovascular disease as well as diabetes and infertility. You might think, “I have great dental hygiene!” But if you’re not tongue scraping, that’s an awfully large surface in the mouth to leave uncleaned.

3. Prevent cavities.

By cleaning your tongue – especially the back part – you remove bacteria and toxins responsible for plaque. This translates into less plaque buildup on your teeth, which prevents against tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

4. Get rid of bad breath.

Some studies estimate that 80 to 95% of bad breath comes from the buildup of food, bacteria, fungi, and dead cells at the back of the tongue. The front of your tongue might look pink and healthy, but stick your tongue out in front of a mirror and examine it way in the back. You’ll probably see white, yellow, or even brown buildup way back there if you aren’t tongue scraping — and people can smell it (not to mention see it when you laugh out loud).

5. Boost your immune system.

Scraping your tongue will prevent toxins from getting reabsorbed by your body. Tongue scraping is especially crucial while you’re sick since a lot of gunk from coughing, sneezing, or sucking on cough drops or other medicines can build up on the back of the tongue.

6. Improve your digestive health.

Tongue scraping and a clean tongue both promote saliva production, which helps with your digestion.

Bonus Reason #7: It’s dead simple.

Tongue scraping takes seconds. Once you see all the gunk that comes off your tongue, you’ll never go back!

My favorite tongue scraper and the one I personally use is Dr. Tung’s. It’s made out of stainless steel, which feels more hygienic than plastic ones I’ve used. It’s also a gentler and deeper scrape than many of the other plastic tongue scrapers I’ve tried, which have ridges on them. The most important thing is to choose one that’s comfortable for you and that you enjoy using.

Here’s my how-to tongue scrape video so you can have a visual when you’re ready to get started.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Got more questions about tongue scraping? Ask me a question!

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What is Tongue Scraping? Jihwa Prakshalana, or the Ayurvedic self-care ritual known as tongue scraping, is an an oral hygiene practice that removes bacteria, food debris, fungi, toxins, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue.

When we sleep, our digestive system remains awake, removing toxins from our body by depositing them onto the surface of our tongue. If we don’t scrape away these toxins, they get reabsorbed by the body and can lead to respiratory difficulties, digestive problems, and a compromised immune system.

Dental research has concluded that a tongue scraper is more effective at removing toxins and bacteria from the tongue than a toothbrush. Although brushing and flossing will loosen and move debris around, they do not actually remove the bacteria. Almost half of our oral bacteria live on and in the deep crevices of our tongue; the scraping action of a tongue scraper collects these toxic tongue coatings (which can range in color from clear, white, yellow, or green) and removes them from the body.

5 reasons YOU should scrape your tongue

1. Halitosis is horrible.

Bad breath can have a negative impact on a person’s life, relationships, and self-esteem. Given that most bad breath comes from the bacteria at the back of the tongue (an area that’s difficult to reach with a toothbrush), clinical studies have shown that tongue scraping significantly reduces and removes oral bacteria from the crevices of all areas the tongue.

2. You want to experience the flavors of your food.

Proper digestion begins with taste and salivation. If you don’t take steps to remove toxic mucus on the tongue, your taste buds can become blocked. This may lead to false cravings or an inability to recognize the taste of food. Removing build-up from the surface of your tongue will open up its pores and better expose your taste buds, allow for greater enjoyment of food flavors, and help your body digest and assimilate food.

3. You want to boost your immunity.

The tongue is part of the first line of defense in your immune system. Scraping your tongue prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into your body and boosts overall immune function.

4. You’re down with dental health.

This oral hygiene practice promotes general tooth and gum health and removes bacteria and toxins responsible for periodontal problems, plaque build-up, tooth decay, loss of teeth, gum infections, and gum recession.

5. You’d like to improve your digestive health.

In Ayurveda, proper digestion is considered to be the foundation of health. Given that digestion begins with taste, it’s important to remove any toxins that may obstruct optimal functioning. Scraping also activates saliva production and promotes agni (the body’s digestive fire) to help with digestion throughout the day.

How to scrape your tongue

This Ayurvedic daily routine for maintaining oral health should be done on a regular basis, in the morning upon rising, and on an empty stomach. A tongue scraper is a long, thin, flat piece of metal that is bent in a “U” shape.

Standing in front of a mirror, you scrape your tongue by simply holding the two ends of the scraper in both hands, sticking out your tongue, and placing the scraper as far back on you tongue as possible. With firm but gentle pressure, scrape the surface of your tongue in one long stroke. Rinse the scraper and repeat until your tongue feels clean and is free of coating (usually 5 to 10 times).

Where to buy a tongue scraper?

Tongue scrapers are inexpensive, and can be found at most health food stores as well as online. Chose a stainless steel scraper because they are easier to clean and are ideal for balancing for all Ayurvedic constitutions and imbalances. In a pinch, the side of a metal spoon can be effective.

Do tongue scrapers work

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