Should You Clean Your Tongue?

Brushing and flossing is essential to long-term oral health. But what about tongue scraping? This Ayurvedic self-care practice removes harmful bacteria and particles from the surface of the tongue and has been dated as far back as 6,000 BCE. Although not a replacement for proper brushing and flossing, tongue scraping is an excellent habit to add to your daily hygiene regimen. Today, our team at Fort Dental Health Group explains exactly how tongue scraping works and how it can improve your overall oral health.

What is tongue scraping?

Tongue scraping simply involves cleaning the surface of your tongue. This is performed with a slightly rounded metal or plastic instrument. In addition to removing bacteria, tongue scraping also removes food debris, fungi, and dead cells.

How does tongue scraping improve oral health?

Over time, bacteria, food, debris, and other particles accumulate on the tongue, just like they accumulate on the teeth. If these irritants are not removed, they can have a negative impact on your oral and overall health. Tongue scraping offers several benefits. For example, this practice can:

  • Reduce bad breath: Research has suggested that tongue scraping is one of the most effective methods for maintaining fresh breath.
  • Improve overall health: Harmful oral bacteria can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Scraping the tongue aids in removing these bacteria from the mouth.
  • Improve the appearance of the tongue: Buildup on the tongue can lead to a whitish appearance. Tongue scraping can remove this coating and make your tongue appear pink and healthy.
  • Enhance your sense of taste: Some studies have suggested that cleaning your tongue actually helps you distinguish between sweet, salty, bitter, and sour sensations.

Scraping vs brushing the tongue

Many people clean their tongue with a toothbrush. However, a 2004 study revealed that tongue scrapers removed 30 percent more sulfur compounds from the tongue than a soft-bristled toothbrush.[1]

There are several tongue scrapers available for purchase. Some are metal, and some are plastic. Both types are effective, but plastic scrapers may need to be replaced more often. If you do not have access to a tongue scraper, a clean metal spoon can serve the same purpose.

How to properly clean your tongue

When it comes to oral hygiene habits, consistency is key. Cleaning your tongue is no different. We recommend scraping your tongue every time you brush. This will instill healthy habits for a lifetime of benefits. To properly clean your tongue:

  • Stand in front of your mirror and stick out your tongue.
  • Place the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue.
  • Drag the scraper from the back of the tongue all the way to the front.
  • After each pass, remove debris from the scraper with a tissue or paper towel.
  • Repeat this process until your entire tongue has been cleaned.

Once you are finished, you can wash your scraper with water and mild soap. You can also soak it in antibacterial mouthwash.

Cleaning my tongue makes me gag

Patients with a severe gag reflex often have difficulty scraping the tongue. If you are afraid of triggering your gag reflex, start at the middle of the tongue when cleaning it, then gradually move farther back as you become used to it.

Contact Fort Dental Health Group

To learn more about tongue scraping or other oral hygiene practices, speak to a team member of our Edmonton, AB dental group. Contact us online anytime or give us a call at 780.998.7165.