It’s been hammered into our heads to brush twice a day, floss once (though that's up for debate) and maybe rinse with a fluoride mouthwash. But recently, another chore has been suggested as an addition to our dental routine: tongue scraping. But is this ayurvedic practice that dates back to ancient India really worth your while?
We went to two experts to find out if you should start your day scraping your tongue.
Dental hygienist Sam Williamson, owner of Teeth Whitening Belfast in Ireland, recommends the practice to all of his patients.
“Most of my clients don't realize the effectiveness of tongue scraping until they actually do it and see all the gunk that comes off their tongue,” he says. “The tongue is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, but although we take care of our teeth and our gums regularly, we don't pay nearly as much attention to our tongue."
The bacteria on your tongue is one of the main causes of bad breath, so scraping it regularly can significantly improve your breath over time. In fact, a recent study showed about 85 percent of all bad breath cases begin in the mouth and half are caused by bacteria residue on the tongue. Brushing your tongue is "the best way to ensure that your breath stays fresh throughout the day,” Williamson says.
Kimberly Harms, DDS, a dentist in Farmington, Minnesota, and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, says "your taste buds in the back are made for bacteria to hide." And when your mouth has a lot of bacteria in it, you can taste it. “That sour
taste is often due to bacteria," she says.
If you often suffer from dry mouth, this quick health routine can help that, too. “If you’re not producing enough saliva when you chew, you my have digestive issues,” Williamson says. “Scraping can help.”
How to do it
“A scraper is an efficient way to remove all that’s coating your tongue,” Harms says. Here are four things to keep in mind as you scrape:
1. Buy a dedicated tongue scraper (they cost as little as $6) that comes in plastic or metal and is usually shaped like the letter U.
2. Always be gentle — scraping your tongue should never hurt.
3. Scrape only five to 10 times, Harms suggests.
4. Don't go too deep. "Since we have a gag reflex, be sure not to put the scraper too far back in your mouth,” she adds.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Harms says. “We don’t like to praise things without research but tongue scraping makes sense. If you’re successful at brushing twice a day and flossing daily, great. Do that first. Consider tongue scraping a great adjunct to good oral hygiene.”