Tongue scraper

A tongue scraper can be used to clean the upper surface of the tongue. Tongue scrapers are also called tongue cleaners or tongue brushes. The use of tongue scrapers has a long history. Tongue scrapers were and are used in Ayurveda and in many eastern and oriental cultures for centuries. Nowadays they are used worldwide.

There are various forms of metal, wooden, and plastic tongue scrapers available. In the old times, materials like ivory, mother-of-pearl, whalebone, celluloid, tortoiseshell were used to produce tongue scrapers. Nowadays they consist of metal, plastic or wood. A tongue scraper can be a strap or can have brush bristles. Also, antibacterial tongue cleaning gels can be used in combination with tongue scrapers.

Pro and Cons on using tongue scrapers

The tongue surface can be coated with microorganisms (mainly bacteria), dead epithelial cells, food residues and saliva. The bacteria on the tongue surface are a potential reservoir for bacteria that can cause dental plaque formation and thus gum inflammation (gingivitis) and dental caries.

The benefits of using a tongue scraper are controversial. Although there is some scientific evidence that tongue cleaning can help to reduce dental plaque formation, there is little scientific evidence that tongue cleaning can reduce bad breath (halitosis)1.

Be aware that overuse of a tongue scraper can cause damage to your taste buds and impair on how you perceive taste! Furthermore, damaging your tongue tissue can do way more harm than good. Especially people with previous infective endocarditis and artificial cardiac valves may be at risk of a systemic spread of bacteria into the blood stream, called bacteraemia.

Tongue cleaning technique

Tongue cleaning is a relatively quick and simple procedure.

  • Extend the tongue out of the mouth as far as possible.
  • Then place the tongue cleaner as far back on the tongue as possible. Attention this can cause gagging or even vomiting!
  • Gently, scrape along the tongue surface towards the front in order to clean the tongue.
  • Use running water to wash off scraped material from the tongue scraper. The material scraped from the tongue can have different appearances, depending on the type of foods eaten and the state of your mouth hygiene.
  • Scraping can be repeated several times (4-6 times). However, please only do a gentle scraping and make sure you are not damaging your tongue tissue. Please be also aware that overuse of a tongue scraper can cause damage to your taste buds!
  • Finally clean and dry the tongue scraper and keep it in a clean place.

Read more about the Oral flora and oral health issues here

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