Brushing and flossing your teeth are important daily hygiene practices, but cleaning your tongue with a scraper is also a crucial step for removing bacteria and maintaining a clean mouth. You can get a similar effect if you simply brush your tongue a few times as you brush your teeth, but some experts say a dedicated scraping tool is better at removing plaque and bacteria from the tongue’s surface. Think of it this way – if your carpet is dirty and you scrub it, the dirt is going to get embedded down further, but if you scrape the dirt it will come right off the surface. Some studies even suggest that tongue scraping can remove bacteria and improve bad breath more than brushing. Other benefits of tongue scraping include improved taste, decreased risk of gum inflammation and cavities, and the removal of dead cells that can build up due to medication use, smoking or dry mouth.
Tongue scraping is low risk but needs to be done gently. If you press as hard as you can on the scraper, you could cut your tongue and potentially damage your taste buds. It’s easy to add tongue scraping to your brushing routine. First, brush and floss your teeth as usual. Then:
- Stick out your tongue.
- Start the scraper at the very back of the tongue.
- Using light pressure, run the scraper all the way to the front of the tongue (if it hurts or cuts your tongue, it’s too much pressure).
- Rinse the scraper under warm water and repeat 2 or 3 more times to clean the entire surface of the tongue, rinsing the scraper between each passing.
- Swish your mouth out with water afterward.
- Rinse the scraper off once you’re done and store in a clean area (sanitize regularly with hot water or alchohol)
If your tongue gives off any visual clues that it’s not healthy – like white, black or red discoloration, or sores or pain that persists for more than a week or two – make an appointment to visit with your dentist.