Tongue Scrapers: What You Need to Know

Most of us are familiar with the recommendations for maintaining a healthy mouth. These include brushing your teeth 2-3 times daily, flossing once a day, using a mouth rinse to help kill extra bacteria, and visiting the dentist every six months for routine check-ups. So, can a tongue scraper better facilitate oral hygiene?

Key takeaways:
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    Tongue scrapers are small tools used to remove debris and bacteria from the tongue's surface.
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    Over time, the accumulation of bacteria, food particles, and dead cells can affect your mouth's health.
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    Removing bacteria and debris from your tongue allows the taste buds to function better. Regular scraping allows the taste buds to distinguish bitter, salty, and sour flavors better.

Using a tongue scraper can provide many oral health benefits and help keep your smile happy. Let’s discover all you should know about tongue scrapers.

What are tongue scrapers?

A tongue scraper is a small tool used to remove debris and bacteria from the surface of your tongue. Tongue scraping is not a new technology. In fact, tongue scraping has been around for centuries.

Tongue scrapers come in many different shapes and sizes. While it is possible to experience similar benefits from simply brushing your tongue with your toothbrush, a tongue scraper is less bulky.

Benefits of using a tongue scraper

Tongue scraping is designed to help remove harmful debris that builds up on the surface of your tongue. This debris can be an accumulation of bacteria, food, and dead cells. Over time, this debris can affect your mouth's health. Using a tongue scraper to remove this buildup can provide the following benefits:

Reduce bad breath

The tongue is covered with tiny finger-like projections called papillae. The papillae are known to harbor most of the odor-causing bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria and debris hidden in the papillae produce products called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). These compounds contain sulfur gases that stink (think rotten eggs). When you scrape the bacteria off your tongue, you can reduce the amount of the VSCs by 75% or more. Tongue scraping daily prevents these bacteria and debris from building up.

Improve taste

Removing bacteria and debris from your tongue allows the taste buds to work better. In as little as two weeks of regular scraping, the taste buds can distinguish bitter, salty, and sour flavors better. Thus, improving your overall sense of taste.

Remove harmful bacteria

Studies show that scraping your tongue daily helps remove the harmful bacteria that can cause bad breath, cavities, or periodontal problems. Therefore, regular tongue scraping helps to prevent bacterial overgrowth. This keeps your mouth healthier and disease free.

Improve overall health

Bacteria in the mouth travel throughout the body when you swallow. The harmful bacteria found in your mouth have been linked to other, more serious health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, a healthy mouth can help maintain a healthy body.

Improve the appearance of the tongue

When the tongue is covered with plaque, food debris, and dead cells, it appears to have a thick white layer covering it. Using a tongue scraper daily removes this white layer and helps the tongue to appear pink again.

How to use a tongue scraper

Adding a tongue scraper to your oral care routine is quite easy. First, make sure to brush and floss your teeth as normal before you begin. Then follow these simple steps:

  • Stick your tongue out.
  • Place the tongue scraper far back on the tongue as possible.
  • Use gentle pressure on the scraper. If it hurts, lighten the pressure.
  • Pull the scraper toward the tip of the tongue using only a smooth and steady forward motion.
  • Rinsethe scraper off with water.
  • Repeat these steps 2-3 times or until you have removed the white film on the tongue.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or mouth rinse.
  • Clean the tongue scraper when you have finished, and allow it to dry.

Choosing a tongue scraper

Choosing the right tongue scraper is about personal preference. There are several types of scrapers available. Here are a few types to consider when choosing a tongue scraper.

Metal tongue scrapers

Metal tongue scrapers are a very common option. These are usually thin, u-shaped metal pieces with handles on each side. These are very durable and last longer than the other types. These scrapers are designed to clean the entire tongue with one pass. However, because they are metal, use light, gentle pressure. Stainless steel and copper are the two most common metal materials used. The stainless-steel scrapers can be sterilized in the dishwasher to keep them bacteria-free. Copper scrapers are naturally antibacterial due to copper's natural properties.

Plastic tongue scrapers

Plastic tongue scrapers can only be reused a few times before they need to be thrown away, making these scrapers less environmentally friendly than other options. These tongue scrapers are usually cheaper and may come in multipacks for convenience. Plastic tongue scrapers often have handles like a toothbrush. They have smaller U or V-shaped heads, requiring multiple passes to scrape the tongue's surface thoroughly.

Brush tongue scrapers

Brush-type tongue scrapers are available as well. These brush bristles are smaller than a typical toothbrush and may be firmer. These brushes work like a toothbrush to remove the debris and bacteria from the tongue's surface. They usually take several passes to clean the entire surface of the tongue.

Your regular toothbrush

Yes, some people use their regular toothbrush instead of a tongue scraper. Although this can work in a pinch if a traditional tongue scraper is unavailable, using a toothbrush is not nearly as effective as a tongue scraper. Studies prove tongue scrapers remove up to 50% more plaque and debris than a toothbrush from the surface of your tongue.

Risks of using a tongue scraper

The biggest concern for using a tongue scraper is gagging. For many people, their gag reflex is strong. Even brushing the back teeth can stimulate the gag reflex. If this is a concern for you, consider choosing a thin metal tongue scraper to help reduce the gagging sensation. Also, you may choose not to go as far back on the tongue until you become more accustomed to the action of tongue scraping. Over time, the gag reflex may lessen as well.

Another concern is accidentally cutting the tongue. Here are three suggestions for preventing this:

  • Carefully read the directions for your tongue scraper and follow the recommended suggestions for use.
  • Avoid using too much pressure when scraping the tongue. Steady, gentle pressure is all that is required.
  • Only use a pulling motion, moving the tongue scraper from the back toward the tip of the tongue — never use the reverse motion.

Following these tips will help ensure that your tongue is clean and help prevent any trauma while scraping your tongue. A tongue scraper is a wonderful way to improve your oral health. It does not replace the need for brushing 2-3 times a day and flossing once a day. Good home care is essential in maintaining a healthy mouth. Adding a tongue scraper to your oral care routine can provide great benefits like reducing harmful plaque and bacteria, improving taste perception, eliminating bad breath, and improving tongue appearance. So, make sure to add tongue scraping to your daily routine and enjoy a healthier smile.

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