Chances are, when you were a child, you had a lollipop or other candy and noticed that your tongue turned an odd color. As an adult, you may have noticed white patches on the surface of your tongue. This food particle and bacterial buildup are typically taken care of by saliva that washes away bacteria and maintains the right pH balance in the mouth. However, dehydration, medical conditions, and certain medications can limit saliva production. When this happens, regular tongue scraping can help you reduce the level of bacteria and plaque on the surface of your tongue, helping promote better oral health and reducing bad breath.
Here we take a look at tongue scraping, the best way to use a tongue scraper, and the benefits it offers.
- While you can clean your tongue by simply brushing it with your toothbrush and toothpaste when cleaning your teeth, a dedicated tongue scraper can be more effective at removing bacteria and plaque on the tongue’s surface.
- Tongue scraping helps remove bacteria which can help reduce bad breath, known as halitosis, and dental decay.
How to properly use the tongue scraper
Tongue scrapers, also known as tongue cleaners, can come in various materials and slightly different shapes. In general, they have a slightly rounded shape and look like an inverted spoon. Learning how to use one of these scrapers can take time to get used to, especially if you have a strong gag reflex. Following these steps will help you develop a regular tongue-cleaning routine that allows you to thoroughly remove the bacteria on your tongue and improve your oral health.
- Standing in front of a mirror, stick your tongue out as far as possible.
- Gently place the rounded end of the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue. If you have a strong gag reflex, begin at the middle of the tongue for the first few times until you get used to the process, and slowly start farther back.
- Gently pull the scraper forward toward the tip of your tongue. Always keep the movement starting in the back and moving forward. Once you reach the tip of the tongue, rinse any debris off the scraper before starting with another segment of the tongue.
- Repeat this process until you have gone over the entire surface of your tongue. You can repeat the process entirely if you still see the presence of bacteria.
- Gargle and rinse your mouth with clean water or mouthwash.
- Thoroughly wash the tongue scraper with warm water and soap and store it in a clean, dry location.
Common mistakes to avoid while using a tongue scraper
The most common mistakes or problems often associated with tongue scraping include gag reflex and tongue injury. Avoiding a strong gag reflex can be difficult but there are some steps you can take. When first starting out, do not take the scraper all the way to the back of the tongue. Instead, start in the center and simply scrape the front half of the tongue. Each day, slowing start farther back, allowing your body to get used to the procedure. Often this gradual method is enough to avoid gagging.
When you scrape your tongue, it is important to do so firmly enough to remove bacteria while also gentle enough that you do not cause damage to your tongue or taste buds. When first starting out begin with soft pressure, slowly increasing to a more effective pressure. Always examine your tongue scraper for any rough edges before scraping in order to avoid potential injury.
What is tongue scraping?
Tongue scraping is a technique designed to help remove bacteria and small food particles from the surface of the tongue. Removing these particles can not only help reduce bad breath but provides an additional cleaning method that helps reduce overall bacteria in the mouth, reducing the risk of dental decay. While cleaning the tongue can be done with your toothbrush when you brush your teeth, a tooth scraper is better designed to remove bacteria from the unique surface of the tongue. In fact, studies show that a tongue scraper is 30% more effective at removing bacteria from the surface of the tongue that a toothbrush.
Benefits of tongue scraping
The human mouth always contains bacteria and, while some of that bacteria can be beneficial for oral and overall health, other bacteria can lead to tooth decay. While toothbrushing and flossing are the most important parts of a good oral hygiene routine by reducing surface bacteria and plaque on the teeth, tooth scraping can provide many additional benefits. These benefits include:
- Improved sense of taste: Without the buildup of bacteria on the surface of the tongue, your taste buds are better able to distinguish different tastes.
- Improved tongue appearance: When bacteria builds up on the surface of the tongue, it can create a white coating that can cover the entire surface or cause white blotches.
- Reduced oral bacteria: Studies show that when performed twice a day, tongue scraping can reduce the levels of Mutans streptococci and Lactobacilli bacteria most often responsible for tooth decay and bad breath.
- Improvement of overall oral health: Reduction in the population of bad oral bacteria not only reduces dental decay and bad breath, but it also reduces the risk of gum disease and other common conditions that can affect the mouth, such as thrush, canker sores, and hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Types of tongue scrapers
When it comes to tongue-scraping tools, there are three different types to choose from.
1. Brush tongue scrapers
Brush tongue scrapers look similar to a toothbrush but with a wider surface designed specifically for the tongue. While you may be tempted to use a tongue brush with a brushing motion similar to a toothbrush, you want to follow the same steps as outlined above, moving the tongue brush in a simple movement from the back to the tip of the tongue. A tongue brush can often be combined with a traditional toothbrush that has tooth bristles on one side and the tongue scraping brush on the other. Brush tongue scrapers should be replaced every three to four months.
2. Plastic tongue scrapers
Plastic tongue scrapers have a handle similar to a toothbrush with a head that is an open, curved tongue scraper. They can have varying widths, with some large enough to cover nearly the entire surface of the tongue in a single movement. Plastic tongue scrapers should be replaced every three to four months.
3. Metal tongue scrapers
Metal tongue scrapers can vary in size a shape. There are ones that have a handle similar to plastic tongue scrapers. These can also have varying widths. In addition, you can find metal tongue scrapers that are curved pieces of metal with two handles, essentially making a “U” shape. These scrapers are typically made with stainless steel or copper. Copper has natural antibacterial properties that can also be beneficial. Metal tongue scrapers can last a lifetime if they are cleaned and maintained regularly.
Frequently asked questions
Here we look at some common questions people have regarding tongue scraping and how to add it to a quality oral hygiene routine.
Do you use a tongue scraper before or after brushing?
Tongue scraping is effective when done either before or after brushing, so you can determine which method works best for you.
Is it good to scrape your tongue?
While tooth brushing can remove much of the bacteria from the surface of your teeth, adding tongue scraping can further remove bacteria found in the mouth that can contribute to bad breath and tooth decay. As long as you follow the steps above and apply firm but gentle pressure on the tongue, you will effectively remove bacteria that help promote better oral health and improved function of your taste buds.
How often do you use a tongue scraper?
You should use a tongue scraper at least once a day, either in the morning or evening when you brush your teeth. If you are experiencing increased bacterial buildup or regular bad breath, you may consider scraping the tongue more frequently, such as after every meal.
Improve oral health with tongue scraping
Whether you choose to lean your tongue with your toothbrush or invest in a tongue-scrapping tool, removing this additional oral bacteria can be very beneficial. Not only can it help keep bad breath at bay, but regular tongue scraping can also help reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Promoting quality oral health and a beautiful smile
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, our dental team is committed to helping our patients achieve optimal oral health and a beautiful smile. A quality oral hygiene routine at home which includes tongue scraping can be one of the best tools you have for maintaining a healthy smile. If you have questions about tongue scrapers and which one will work best for you, our team is here to offer assistance.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment.