Have you heard of tongue scraping? The term may be new to you, but the practice has been around for hundreds of years. What started 2,000 years ago in places like India and South America, tongue scraping came to Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. By using a tool to scrape your tongue, you can remove more bacteria after brushing. Tongue scraping can be done at home and is beneficial to your oral health. In this article, we at Sninski & Schmitt explore what tongue scraping is, what the benefits are, and how to do it. 

What is Tongue Scraping?

Your tongue is covered with thousands of hair-like projections called papillae and taste buds. These raised bumps catch bacteria, food particles, dead cells, and debris that can build up over time. Tongue scraping is accomplished with a small, slightly rounded implement that is made either from plastic or metal. It removes bacteria that remains after brushing and flossing. It can help reduce cavities, improve breath, and provide a better sense of taste. It is especially helpful for someone who has a thick white, yellow, or brown coating on the tongue due to dry mouth, smoking, poor tooth brushing routines, or oral yeast infections.

Your mouth is full of bacteria, approximately 700 types, according to the National Institutes of Health. Not all of the bacteria are bad, some are actually good bacteria that help fight off gum disease. Most bacteria, however, are detrimental to your oral health because they cause cavities and plaque accumulation. Quite a few bacteria stick to your tongue as well as your teeth, so using a tool to scrape the tongue helps to get those nasty bacteria off.

Benefits of Tongue Scraping

There are quite a few benefits of scraping your tongue, for example, here are a few:

Removing Bacteria

A study done in 2014 by BMC Oral Health looked at the effects of tongue cleaning on bacterial flora where 30 healthy adults were monitored and assessed for changes in the amount of bacteria on the tongue with and without tongue scraping. One group of participants in the study scraped their tongues while one group did not. After the study, the researchers found that tongue scraping had, in fact, reduced the levels of bacteria that coated the tongue.

Improving Taste

According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, taste sensation was better after two weeks of tongue scraping. The study involved 16 participants, non-smoking adults, that researchers evaluated taste for bitter, sweet, salt, and sour. After the two weeks of scraping, improvements in taste sensation and a significant decrease of tongue coating were evident.

Having Better Breath

One of the main reasons people use tongue scrapers is to improve bad breath. Using a scraper two times a day can help remove the bacteria that cause bad breath. Note, however, that scraping should be done in conjunction with brushing and flossing to be the most effective.

Improving the Appearance of Your Tongue

Bacteria and debris that accumulates on your tongue can cause a white, yellow, or brown coating. You can diminish or even completely remove this coating by scraping your tongue twice a day.

Improving Your Overall Health

By removing bacteria that affects your oral health, you can also improve your overall health. Good oral health is connected with heart disease prevention. Tongue scraping has been shown in studies to promote the oral microbiome and improve the production of nitric oxide, which is an essential molecule that plays an important part in cardiovascular health.

Traditionally, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners believe that the tongue is a map of the internal organs. Each section of the tongue, measured in thirds, represents different organs. When there is a coating on a section(s) of the tongue, it is believed that toxins are present in the organs represented by that section. There is no high-quality mainstream research that substantiates these beliefs at this time.

How to Properly Scrape Your Tongue

You need to have the correct tool to properly scrape your tongue, called a tongue scraper. Most scrapers have a slightly rounded shape like an inverted spoon. You can find tongue scrapers at most retail outlets that sell oral health instruments, such as Amazon, Walmart, and drugstores. In a pinch, you can use a clean spoon or your toothbrush.

Follow these steps to perform tongue scraping:

  1. In front of a mirror, open your mouth and stick out your tongue.
  2. Using a gentle touch, set the rounded end of the scraper at the back of the tongue. (Note that, if you are easy to gag, you can begin farther to the front of the tongue and gradually move back as you get more used to the scraping.)
  3. Slowly pull the scraper forward, toward the tip of your tongue. Never push the scraper back from the tip. Always move it from the back of the tongue to the tip.
  4. Use a washcloth or tissue to remove debris from the scraper.
  5. Repeat this sequence until you’ve scraped the entire surface of your tongue. Usually, one or two scrapes across the same area is enough.
  6. Wash the tongue scraper with warm water and soap. Then, dry it and store in a clean, dry area.

This process takes about two minutes or less. Repeat as needed throughout the day.

Other Important Ways to Improve Your Oral Health

You need a complete, well-rounded approach to oral hygiene. When you incorporate all of these tips you help maintain and improve your oral health, for example:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes
  • Floss at least once a day to remove debris that accumulates between teeth
  • Use a toothpaste with fluoride and mouthwash to help fight cavities
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to reduce dry mouth
  • Avoid using tobacco products

Contact Us Today for a Dental Appointment

Do you think you are doing all you can for your oral health? Our professional, experienced dental team at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry can take care of all your family dentistry needs. We take a variety of insurance plans and are currently taking new patients. Call our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 or our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment