We all know the importance of cleaning our teeth daily. But what about our tongues? Most of us will be familiar with that filmy feeling that can coat our tongues when we first wake up in the morning. This comes from toxins and bacteria that build up in our mouths while we sleep. Although a good brush and flossing help a bit, our tongues often go neglected when we are caring for our oral health.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this issue. And it has been used for thousands of years. Tongue scraping.
What Is Tongue Scraping?
Tongue scraping is the simple technique of using a metal tool to lightly scrape the surface of your tongue. This removes the bacteria and toxins that have built up on your tongue overnight, improving your breath and protecting your teeth.
The concept comes from the holistic healing tradition of Ayurveda and has been used in India for thousands of years.
It has taken some time, but the Western world is beginning to wake up to the benefits of tongue scraping too. As we learn more about the importance of good oral hygiene for our overall health, we’re all realizing that taking care of our mouths (and tongues!) should be a priority.
What Are the Benefits of Tongue Scraping?
Just like our guts, our mouths are a carefully balanced microbiome that includes loads of different types of bacteria. While many of these bacteria are harmless, others cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease. Removing these harmful bacteria off the tongue every day helps to keep our mouths fresh and our teeth healthy.
Daily brushing and flossing are also an important part of keeping on top of the bacteria and preventing them from causing damage. But brushing and flossing don’t address the bacteria at the back of your tongue, an area that is hard to reach without a specially designed tool.
Adding tongue scraping into your morning routine, therefore, has several benefits. Here are four of the most significant ones:
- Preventing Bad Breath
Bad breath (halitosis) is caused by the build-up of certain bacteria in our mouths. So, it stands to reason that removing these bacteria should help improve any bad breath.
Research supports this idea. A study published in 2019 in the Journal of Breath Research looked at the effectiveness of tongue scraping on halitosis. The authors found that using a mouthwash made no measurable difference, but tongue scraping did, as long as it was done regularly.
- Reducing Gum Disease
Brushing our teeth every day is essential to remove bacteria and prevent gum disease. However, there’s evidence that using a tongue scraper daily is more effective at reducing the risk of gum disease than brushing on its own.
In a 2018 study, researchers compared two groups with gum disease. Both groups were taught proper oral hygiene, but one group was given a tongue scraper and the other wasn’t. After just a week, both groups saw a reduction in the symptoms of gum disease. But the group using the tongue scraper saw more significant improvement than the group who were brushing alone.
- Removing Tongue Coating
Regardless of whether our bad breath is detectable by other people or not, that filmy coating on our tongues tastes bad and can give our tongues a white covering too.
Daily scraping with a tongue scraper gives us immediate relief from this unpleasant tongue coating, making our whole mouth feel much fresher. It also gets rid of that strange white color, helping our tongues to look and feel healthier.
- Improving the Taste of Food
When our tongues have a coating of bacteria and debris, it gets in the way of our tastebuds, making it harder to taste our food.
An older study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that using a tongue scraper for two weeks significantly improved participants’ ability to taste food, especially salt and quinine (which has a bitter flavor).
Being able to taste our food adds to our sense of pleasure in our meals, but it also benefits our health. When we can taste the subtle nuances of our food, we are far more likely to be drawn to healthier options.
Since the coating on our tongues affects our ability to taste salt, we may find ourselves loading up on too much processed food because we crave the added flavoring. Once the coating is removed, we can appreciate the flavors of fresh and healthy home cooking.
In Ayurveda, tongue scraping is also said to boost the agni – the digestive fire. Much of Ayurveda is concerned with the proper balance of this digestive fire. As we know, our gut health has a significant impact on our overall wellbeing, so anything that can improve our digestion is worth integrating into our daily routines.
How to Do Tongue Scraping
Tongue scraping only takes a few moments, so adding it to your existing oral hygiene regime is easy.
Start by brushing your teeth thoroughly and then flossing. Once your teeth are clean, you can turn your attention to your tongue.
Simply take your tongue scraper and place the curved end on your tongue, as far back as you can go without gagging. Gently but firmly, pull the scraper over your tongue in one long stroke. There’s no need to press too hard.
Replace the scraper and repeat the process five to ten times. You might want to rinse the scraper in between, especially if you see a lot of gunk sticking to it.
If you are sticking to a proper Ayurvedic oral care routine, you’ll follow your tongue scraping with some oil pulling to remove further bacteria. You can also use a mouthwash – look for one with clean and non-toxic ingredients.
How Often Should You Scrape Your Tongue?
Like toothbrushing, tongue scraping works best when it is a daily habit. You only need to use your tongue scraper once a day; however, those struggling with bad breath might prefer to use their tongue scraper twice a day.
Most people prefer to just do tongue scraping in the morning after they brush their teeth. It is usually first thing in the morning that we especially notice that unpleasant coating on our tongues.
Of course, if you prefer to scrape your tongue in the evening, there’s no reason not to. Perhaps you just have a bit more time at the end of the day.
Choosing a Tongue Scraper
In Ayurveda, a tongue scraper is traditionally made from copper, gold, silver, tin, or brass. It should have a curved edge and two long handles so it fits the natural shape of your tongue. The edge shouldn’t be sharp – you don’t want to cause any injuries!
Although plastic scrapers are also available and cheaper, they are also less durable than metal alternatives. In a world where plastic pollution is an ever-increasing issue, most of us will want to steer clear of unnecessary plastic use anyway. And, for those of us trying to live a cleaner lifestyle, the toxins in plastics make them something to avoid, especially in our mouths.
Gold and silver scrapers sound luxurious (and expensive). It is unusual to find these for sale nowadays and those that are available are usually coated steel, instead of pure gold or silver.
At Wellnesse, we prefer to go the traditional route and opt for copper. It seems the ancient Ayurvedic practitioners knew what they were talking about when they recommended the use of copper for making tongue scrapers. We now know that copper has antimicrobial properties and is effective at killing bacteria, yeasts, and viruses that come into contact with it.
Choosing copper for your tongue scraper means that you add the antimicrobial powers of the metal to the benefits of physically scraping your tongue.
Copper scrapers are also attractive objects in their own right. We’re all about objects that are beautiful as well as useful.
Looked after carefully, your copper tongue scraper should last for years, making it a low-waste form of oral hygiene.
Simple and inexpensive, tongue scraping is a hugely beneficial practice to add to your daily oral care regime. To help you get started, we offer our beautiful copper tongue scraper either alone or as part of a bundle with our other oral care essentials. Shop now!
Charak Samhita, Dinacharya
Wellnesse, The Benefits of Flossing: 7 Ways It Improves Your Health
Gurpinar, B., Yildirim, G., Kumral, T. L., Akgun, M. F., Sari, H., Tutar, B., & Uyar, Y. (2019). A simple method to reduce halitosis; tongue scraping with probiotics. Journal of breath research, 14(1), 016008. https://doi.org/10.1088/1752-7163/ab503e
Acar, B., Berker, E., Tan, Ç., İlarslan, Y. D., Tekçiçek, M., & Tezcan, İ. (2019). Effects of oral prophylaxis including tongue cleaning on halitosis and gingival inflammation in gingivitis patients-a randomized controlled clinical trial. Clinical oral investigations, 23(4), 1829–1836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00784-018-2617-5
Quirynen, M., Avontroodt, P., Soers, C., Zhao, H., Pauwels, M., & van Steenberghe, D. (2004). Impact of tongue cleansers on microbial load and taste. Journal of clinical periodontology, 31(7), 506–510. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0303-6979.2004.00507.x
Grass, G., Rensing, C., & Solioz, M. (2011). Metallic copper as an antimicrobial surface. Applied and environmental microbiology, 77(5), 1541–1547. https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.02766-10