Why You Should Consider Using a Tongue Scraper
Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Wash your hands. We’ve all heard these phrases since childhood. These simple practices are the foundation of healthy hygiene, but there is one practice that isn’t as common as perhaps it should be: tongue scraping.
This strange-sounding habit deserves a place next to brushing teeth and flossing as part of a healthy hygiene regimen.
Although tongue scraping is a relatively new idea in the United States, the practice has been around since ancient times in India. Tongue scraping is exactly what it sounds like: using a stiff, often U-shaped device to scrape the tongue. The idea is gaining popularity, and you may have seen tongue scrapers or cleaners in the store and wondered whether they were worth using.
While tooth brushing and flossing help to remove cavity-causing bacteria, one of the primary causes of halitosis (bad breath) is bacteria on the tongue.
In fact, the very back of the tongue is a perfect environment for anaerobic bacteria, which remain largely undisturbed from normal mouth activity. Almost half of oral bacteria live on and in the cracks and crevices of our tongue.
The back of the tongue, in particular, is drier than other parts of the mouth and provides a number of substances that bacteria feed on, such as food particles, dead epithelial cells, and postnasal drip or mucus.
Gross! Anaerobic bacteria produce foul odors, and an undisturbed colony of bacteria like these can be responsible for up to 85-90% of halitosis!
Removing all that gunk in the back of your mouth doesn’t just improve your breath; it can also improve your sense of taste. Tongue scraping also helps activate saliva production, which is a crucial part of the digestion process.
As with other forms of dental hygiene, tongue scraping helps remove harmful bacteria that can lead to periodontal problems, tooth decay, and other pathologies.
Regular tongue scraping can also help to identify other health issues, such as a chronically dry mouth or “hairy tongue”. A dentist can assess these symptoms and may recommend special mouthwash or other treatment options.
Other conditions could include white patches in the mouth, which indicate oral thrush or leukoplakia, which a dentist can also help to treat.
Using a toothbrush to clean the tongue has been found to be much less effective than a tongue scraper specially designed for this purpose.
Research shows that tongue scrapers remove 30 percent more of the smelly sulfur compounds on the back of the tongue than a soft-bristled toothbrush.
When using a tongue scraper, try to reach as far back as possible in the mouth, being aware that this can induce a gag reflex. Use gentle motions to scrape the tongue from the back to the front, and rinse the scraper between strokes.
Repeat this several times, until all the unwanted coating on the tongue is removed.