Tongue scraping is a quick and painless technique used to remove bacteria and food debris from the surface of your tongue. While this practice has been used for centuries, it’s attracted renewed interest as a natural way to combat bad breath and maintain a healthier mouth.
While tongue scraping can help keep your mouth clean, it’s not a replacement for brushing and flossing. Tongue scraping is most effective when used as a complement to your daily dental hygiene routine.
Helping you establish and maintain your dental health is an important part of your routine dental cleaning. Dentists Haidy Messih, DDS, and Basma Armanious, DMD, of Loudoun Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Leesburg, Virginia, emphasize patient education at every office visit.
In this blog, they offer insight into the benefits and misconceptions of tongue scraping.
How tongue scraping works
Tongue scraping involves the use of a rounded metal or plastic tool that you pass over the surface of your tongue to remove dead cells, bacteria, and food debris.
Using a tongue scraper allows you to collect the debris without harming the sensitive papillae that help you feel textures and taste in your mouth.
Tongue scraping is usually done after you’ve finished brushing. It involves the following steps:
- Stick out your tongue while standing in front of a mirror to guide you.
- Position the rounded part of the scraper on the farthest point on the back of your tongue.
- Gently and slowly, pull it forward across the surface, moving from back to front.
- Rinse or wipe off the residue from the scraper before repeating the process.
- Continue with a few scrapes across the area until you cover the tongue’s entire surface.
- Rinse out your mouth with water after the last scraping.
- Use warm water and soap to wash your tongue scraper, then allow it to dry.
Benefits of tongue scraping
Tongue scraping isn’t intended to treat existing medical or oral health conditions, but to support proven techniques that address cavity prevention and gum health.
There’s some evidence that tongue scraping can contribute to better oral hygiene and improve the results of brushing alone with these benefits:
Reduce harmful bacteria
Research indicates that tongue scraping can reduce the number of bacteria in the tongue coating. This includes the type of bacteria that may help cause gum infections, bad breath (halitosis), and cavities.
High levels of bacteria in your mouth are also linked to health conditions that can affect your entire body, including bacterial pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
While the results of another study confirmed lower amounts of bacteria in tongue coating after tongue scraping, the cleaning didn’t reduce the formation of dental plaque.
Clean a coated tongue
A coated tongue, or white tongue, occurs when food debris, bacteria, and other dead cells become trapped between the string-like papillae that exist on the surface of your tongue. The condition can cause a tongue that appears to have a white coating.
White tongue can result from factors including:
- Dry mouth
- Medication use
- Yeast infections
- Inconsistent brushing
While treatment for these conditions can involve medication and/or lifestyle changes, tongue scraping can correct the embarrassing physical appearance caused by coated tongue.
Reduce bad breath
Tongue scraping can’t cure bad breath, but its ability to remove odor-causing bacteria can provide temporary relief from this embarrassing condition.
Since bacteria accumulate every time you eat and drink, the breath-freshening effect of tongue scraping only lasts until your next meal. To avoid the long-term buildup associated with severe bad breath, you must scrape your tongue when you brush or after every meal.
Find out more about the benefits of tongue scraping and how it can support your dental health. Schedule an appointment at Loudoun Family and Cosmetic Dentistry today.