What are the benefits of scraping your tongue and does it actually work? This is something many of us have found ourselves wondering at some point in our oral care journey, but getting a clear-cut answer to these questions is often tricky.
When it comes to oral hygiene, we can find ourselves faced with conflicting advice depending on the source. Is scraping your tongue really necessary if you are already brushing your teeth and flossing? Many people would assume no. However, as with most sanitation routines, experts suggest that there is no such thing as too much cleanliness.
From wondering where you should brush your teeth before breakfast to how to floss properly, questions surrounding oral health are some of the most important. In order to keep our mouths healthy and avoid painful infections or sensitivity, implementing the appropriate techniques is essential. For a definitive answer as to whether the new tongue scraping trend is something worth trying, a dentist tells us everything you need to know.
What is tongue scraping?
Tongue scraping is exactly what the name suggests: it's the act of scraping your tongue to rid it of any harmful bacteria, explains Dr Sundeep Patel (opens in new tab), a cosmetic dentist. It works by manually removing the bacteria sitting on your tongue that brushing your teeth, flossing, or using mouthwash doesn't target.
"Essentially, scraping your tongue can get rid of any harmful bacteria that could lead to inflammation of the gums as well as potential cavities. Your tongue can hold a whole host of bacteria, and so it is a good idea to keep it as clean as possible," Dr Patel, who is also the clinical lead for Waldron Dental Clinic (opens in new tab), explains. Though this can be done using different tools, including one of the best electric toothbrushes, using a dedicated tongue scraper provides different benefits.
What are the benefits of tongue scraping?
1. Decreases chances of bad breath
"Using a tongue scraper removes bacteria sitting on your tongue, and so this is helping to keep your mouth clean which should prevent bad breath from occurring," says Dr Patel. Just as you learn how to brush your teeth properly to get rid of any build up, scraping our tongue will ensure that anything that has been sitting there throughout the day, or overnight, will be removed.
"Often, bad breath can occur due to food particles or bacteria sitting on your tongue, and so removing these will help to keep your mouth clean," the dentist explains. The furry or unclean feeling you sometimes have after not brushing your teeth for a while can also occur on the tongue, which a scraper will help to eliminate.
2. Helps prevent gum disease
Gum disease is more common than you may think, with symptoms including bleeding and inflamed gums that can become very red and sore. Though gum disease is easily treatable, it is better to include preventative methods in your oral hygiene routine.
"Tongue scraping can also help prevent gum disease, as often bacteria on the tongue can actually aggravate the gums and could lead to inflammation, which could then lead to gum disease. So, removing this bacteria often will help to keep the mouth healthy."
3. Prevents cavities
Also owing to the removal of bacteria, scraping your tongue can help to eliminate the chances of severe tooth issues including cavities. Cavities, also referred to as tooth decay, are caused by things like small pieces of food or drinks entering tiny holes in the teeth that then become damaged. By ensuring that everything on your teeth and tongue is removed, this is less likely to occur. Those looking for sensitive teeth treatments will want to be especially cautious to avoid cavities, so as not to acquire further tooth sensitivity or pain.
One thing that can be difficult to keep on top of is how often should you go to the dentist, with medical guidelines changing just this year, which is why implementing the correct at-home care between visits is essential. "The more we can help to keep our mouth clean, the less likely it is that we will suffer with tooth decay or other dental complications," Dr Patel confirms.
4. Improves your taste
"Research from the University of Leuven (opens in new tab) has shown that tongue scraping can actually improve your sense of taste," says Dr Patel. "If scraped twice a day, your tongue may be able to distinguish foods more easily and you will be able to taste salty, sweet or sour foods more easily." An unlikely benefit of adding tongue scraping into your routine, but nonetheless a great one.
5. Improves the appearance of the tongue
Though not essential to your health, scraping your tongue can also help with its appearance. "When often our tongue has a white coating, scraping can remove this and leave it looking clean and healthy," the dentist explains.
If you want to start taking better care of your mouth by approving its appearance through products like the best whitening toothpaste, tongue scraping will be the cherry on top to the perfect smile.
Does tongue scraping work?
In short, yes, it does! However, it is just one part of what is required for a clean mouth. Dentists such as Dr Patel believe that tongue scraping has multiple benefits that are key to a healthy mouth, as a tongue scraper physically removes any build up you may have on your tongue, working in a similar manner to brushing your teeth.
"Often after we eat or drink our tongue can feel fuzzy or like it needs a clean, so morning and night scraping your tongue can help to remove bacteria from that area to prevent any dental issues down the line such as inflammation, gum issues, cavities or bad breath," Dr Patel says. "Tongue scrapers are pretty effective in removing bacteria from the tongue, and in some cases a dentist would suggest purchasing a scraper and include in your oral hygiene routine."
However, the decision to scrape your tongue will not be make or break for your oral hygiene. "Taking care of your oral hygiene is essential, and tongue scraping definitely falls in the dental hygiene camp. However, it is probably not as important as flossing or brushing your teeth, but people still like to include it in their routine."
Copper vs stainless steel tongue scraping
If you have decided that adding tongue scraping into your routine could be beneficial for your personal needs, there are a couple of different things to consider. Since we already know the perks of tongue scraping, another important factor to take into account when purchasing a tongue scraper is the material it is made from.
"The most commonly used materials when it comes to tongue scrapers for oral hygiene are stainless steel, copper, and plastic," Dr Patel explains. "Plastic scrapers are often more affordable and can be gentler on your tongue, but steel or copper tend to be the more effective in removing bacteria. Furthermore, the stainless steel and copper scrapers are often picked as they are more environmentally friendly." A good quality tool can last you years, so it is advisable to go for a tongue scraper that won't need replacing regularly.
Amelia joined woman&home after graduating with an MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2022. She specialises in lifestyle journalism and throughout her undergraduate degree she wrote for a variety of student publications, where she developed a love for all things style, beauty and sustainable fashion. She has previously written for titles including OK! Magazine, New! Magazine and Notion before she started her career as a lifestyle journalist with woman&home after completing an internship with the brand.
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