What is Tongue Scraping and Does it Work?

Twice every day, we give our teeth and gums the oral equivalent of a spa treatment. We begin by flossing as if we were giving our gums acupuncture. Then we brush our pearly whites with all of the vigour of a therapeutic deep tissue massage. And finally, to finish it all off, we treat them to an antiseptic mouthwash bubble bath.

Yes indeed, we treat our teeth and gums far better than we treat ourselves. But for all of the tender love and care that we provide to our teeth and gums, our oral health might not be as great as we think it is. That’s because wriggling around in our mouths, is an unassuming bacterial hotbed.

A 2005 study found that our tongues play host to a large percentage of the billions of bacteria in our mouths. In fact, the worst kinds of bacteria—the bad breath kinds of bacteria—were, more so than others, very fond of our wagging tongues. So, if we truly want to improve our oral health and reduce our chances of developing gum disease and tooth decay, we’ll have to learn to give our tongues the same royal treatment that we provide to our teeth and gums.

What is Tongue Scraping?

Tongue scraping can refer to any process that uses an abrasive tool to remove bacteria, biofilms, food particles, dead cells, or any other substance from the surface of the tongue. It’s kind of like an exfoliating face mask… but in your mouth.

What is a Tongue Scraper?

Most often, people will simply use the bristles of their toothbrush as a tongue scraper. Some toothbrushes even have “tongue brushes” on the reverse side of the head. Frankly, even the concave surface of a stainless-steel spoon can serve as an impromptu tongue scraper. However, some research suggests that toothbrushes, with or without a dedicated “scraper” on the back, are not as effective as the real deal. In fact, they were about 30% less effective.

Dedicated tongue scrapers—also referred to as tongue cleaners—are the best tools for taking your tongue to the spa. Just like toothbrushes and dental floss, tongue scrapers come in all different shapes and sizes with various “scraping” attachments.

Most tongue cleaners have a rounded or triangular head with either a soft-plastic or bristled scraper.

Finding the right tongue cleaner for your mouth will be kind of like trying to decide which aromatic oil you want in your massage room—they all work, it’s just a matter of preference. Whichever tongue cleaner you choose, your mouth will thank you.

Does Tongue Scraping Work?

Whether or not tongue scraping actually works has more to do with what your expectations are. While cleaning your tongue can definitely improve your overall oral hygiene, on its own, it isn’t a replacement for your regular twice-daily dental care routine. Nevertheless, tongue scraping can take your smile to the next level.

Taste the Difference

Dentists emphasize the importance of twice-daily brushing and flossing because they want to improve their patient’s oral hygiene and health. They’re also trying to improve their palate. A 2004 study found that two weeks of tongue scraping resulted in an improved sense of taste.

Remove Bacteria and Bad Breath

Chronic bad breath is usually the result of an underlying health condition. However, more often than not, bad breath is just the result of an abundance of bad bacteria in our mouths. Get rid of the bacteria, and you can get rid of bad breath. A 2005 study concluded that tongue cleaning resulted in a material reduction in the number of odour-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Get a Cleaner Smile

Looking better has a lot to do with feeling better—that’s why we always look so good after we leave the spa. The same is true for your smile. The same 2004 study that found a link between tongue cleaning and happier taste buds, found that tongue scraping significantly reduced the amount of “tongue coating”. In effect, even two weeks of tongue scraping resulted in a healthier-looking, pinker tongue.

Visit Your Dentist’s Office (a.k.a. The Tooth Spa)

There’s no doubt that tongue scraping can and, with the right consistency, will improve oral hygiene and lead to a healthier smile. However, when it comes to your oral health, there is no substitute for brushing your teeth and flossing regularly—and, of course, ending it all with that antiseptic bubble bath for your mouth.

For the brightest and healthiest smile possible, you’ll still want to visit the dentist’s office regularly. Click here to learn more about the kind of spa-like treatments your teeth, gums, and tongue can expect on your next visit.