Why & How to Use a Tongue Scraper

Tongue scraping is one of the fastest ways of getting rid of extra particles (including those that are known to cause bad breath) on your tongue. Tongue scraping is done using a small and rounded tool made from metal or plastic. Though there’s no amount of tongue scraping that can replace a proper tooth brushing, it has numerous benefits that we believe make it a great addition to your evening and morning oral care routine.

In this piece, we will get you informed on tongue scraping, its benefits, and how to do it right.

If you have any pressing dental issues or questions, you can book an appointment online or contact us directly on (+356) 2125 7253 (Skyparks Business Centre, Malta International Airport), or (+356) 2155 7323 (Dingli Street, Victoria, Gozo). For international patients, it is recommended to request a free e-consultation where we can discuss your individual case and treatment options.

Tongue Cleaning Tools

When it comes to tongue cleaning, there are numerous options you can explore, including a tongue scraper (as detailed above), a regular toothbrush or even better, a toothbrush that is specifically designed for tongue brushing.

Tongue scrapers are traditional tongue cleaning tools made from plastic or metal. You place the edge of your device on your tongue and pull it forward gently. Although some people use regular toothbrushes for the job, they have a downside – toothbrushes are designed to clean the smooth surface of the enamel. The bristles (hard or soft), cannot get into the tiny spaces between the papilla.

According to a study conducted in 2004, using toothbrushes reduced the production of sulfur compounds by 45%, while using a tongue scraping tool reduced this to a whopping 75% (1).

The Benefits of Tongue Scraping

Improves the appearance of your tongue

Part of good oral hygiene is cleaning your tongue. With time, debris accumulates on the tongue causing it to change its colour to white. The accumulation of this debris creates a conducive environment for bacteria, which leads to lots of oral health problems. Daily scraping can help in getting rid of the white debris coating and preventing the occurrence of the consequences mentioned (2).

Removing bacteria

According to a research study conducted in 2005, using a tongue scraper twice daily for seven days reduced the number of Lactobacilli and Mutans streptococci bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria are notorious for causing tooth decay.

Improves taste

Another research conducted a while back unearthed some interesting pieces of information. Tongue scraping twice a day helps in improving your sense of taste. The tongue can better distinguish between sour, sweet, bitter and salty sensations (3).

Reducing bad breath

tongue scraping reduces bad breath

As mentioned before, tongue scraping cannot replace the old fashioned tooth brushing. However, it can help improve oral hygiene in some aspects. For instance, a study conducted in 2004 showed that tongue scraping helps in getting rid of bacteria, which cause bad odour. In the long run, it helps in reducing bad breath.

Consider possible digestive benefits of tongue scraping

Digestion of food starts in the mouth. Tongue scraping helps in digestion by promoting saliva production, which inadvertently gives digestion a boost from the start.

For gauging your overall health

The condition of the mouth says a lot about your general health. Various diseases and conditions cause varied symptoms. For instance, a white tongue could mean you have a bacterial infection. With a white coating, you can see how possible it is to receive a wrong diagnosis.

Including a Tongue Scraper in Your Daily Routine

You should include tongue scraping in your daily oral hygiene. We recommend that you scrape your tongue twice a day as a compliment (not replacement) to regular brushing and flossing.

Is There Anything Tongue Scraping Can’t Do?

While tongue scraping can help in reducing bad breath, it is not a magic wand against it. Consistency is key if you want to receive any results. For instance, scraping your tongue in the morning will not prevent bad breath throughout the day. Bear in mind that bacteria build up over time. And so, if your aim of picking up tongue scraping is to get rid of bad breath, you ought to scrape your tongue after every meal.

At the very least, you should scrape your tongue every time you brush your teeth. This will help in achieving the long term benefits such as reducing bad breath.

Another common misconception is that scraping using a toothbrush is all you need. Well, although it beats not scraping at all, using a tongue scraper is best.

How to Use a Tongue Scraper

The process is straightforward.

  • Stick out your tongue – be sure to extend it out as far as you can
  • Pick up the scraper
  • Begin scraping – be gentle and thorough at the same time
  • Rinse the scraper after each stroke – this is important since you don’t want to reintroduce the debris on your tongue

Are there any side effects or risks to consider?

The biggest concern about using a tongue scraper is to stimulate a gag reflex as it can make you vomit while scraping your tongue. But there is a way to get around this.

To avoid triggering gag reflexes, you shouldn’t stick the scraper too far into the mouth. When you are starting out, begin scraping from the middle and work to the tip. As you get used to the sensation, you can push the scraper deeper into the back.

Another risk you should bear in mind is cutting your tongue accidentally. To keep this from happening, always ensure that your scraper is smooth. It shouldn’t have uneven and rough edges. Also, you should be conscious of the pressure you apply while scraping.

Choosing a Tongue Scraper

Consider tongue size

Your tongue size will determine the scraper size you select. Usually, a small tongue scraper is perfect for children and persons with smaller tongues while wide tongue scrapers are perfect for adults.

Think about your comfort

The tongue scraper you choose should make you feel comfortable while you are at it. This means that the size, material, and shape of the tongue scraper should be just right.

Look for efficiency

The tongue scraper you choose should scrape of debris in one or two strokes. After all, you don’t want to be stuck cleaning your tongue all morning.

Consider the material used

Tongue scrapers are made from plastic, copper or stainless steel. The material it’s made from dictates how long it can last. Plastic tongue scrapers should be thrown away often, while stainless steel scrapers can be sterilized. Also, if you have a sensitive tongue, pick a plastic tongue scraper.

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If you are worried about a dental related issue, interested in travelling to Malta for a dental holiday or have questions about any of the treatments we offer, please contact us using our new free e-Consultation service. One of our highly-qualified team will respond to your query as soon as possible. Our e-Consultation service is live 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.