What is tongue scraping?
Scraping your tongue is a quick way to remove unwanted, unneeded material that can cause bad breath and other side effects. Scrape your tongue every time you brush and floss your teeth.
Scraping your tongue is a quick way to remove unwanted, unneeded material that can cause bad breath and other side effects. Is it bad to scrape your tongue, though? How often should you scrape your tongue?
Many people are unsure if they should add tongue scraping to their dental hygiene routine; put simply, though, scraping your tongue should be a habit.
The top of your tongue is made of a collection of tiny bumps called papillae that help you experience textures and tastes. However, the surface of your tongue can also house bacteria, remnants of old food, and dead cells that build up over time. Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush is a good first step, but a tongue scraper is better at removing bacteria and plaque.
Tongue scrapers can be made of stainless steel, copper, or plastic and can be purchased at most drug stores.
Benefits of tongue scraping
Caring for your tongue is a vital part of keeping your mouth healthy. There are numerous benefits of tongue scraping, including:
- Better tasting ability. As you scrape unnecessary layers off of your tongue, you’ll refresh your palette. You may notice that flavors are stronger after scraping your tongue.
- Improved breath. The bacteria that sticks to your tongue oftentimes causes bad odors. As you regularly scrape your tongue, brush your teeth, and care for your gums, you may notice better-smelling breath.
- Increased overall health. Your tongue is a small part of your body, but caring for it is still integral to your health. Tongue scraping removes substances that can inflame your gums and cause cavities and also prevents more serious conditions.
- Improved appearance. If you fail to clean your tongue for a long period of time, it will likely start to look like it’s coated in something white. Tongue scraping regularly removes the material to help your tongue keep its natural color.
Side effects of tongue scraping
Although there are many benefits to tongue scraping, there are a few possible side effects, too, such as:
- Stimulating your gag reflex. If you frequently vomit as a result of scraping your tongue, the acid you regurgitate could harm your teeth.
- Cutting the surface of your tongue. If you’re uneven in your scraping or use a scraper that has rough edges, you could cut your tongue.
- Damaging your taste buds. If you’re not gentle enough, you could break the skin of your tongue and harm your taste buds.
Dental hygiene routine
It can seem intimidating to add an extra step into your daily routine, but adding tongue scraping is a great idea. Simply add this step after you brush, floss, and rinse like normal.
To properly scrape your tongue, follow these steps:
- Open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out.
- Place the round edge of your scraper softly on the back of your tongue. Don’t place it too far back or you will gag yourself.
- Push the scraper into your tongue very gently. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure to remove bacteria and other material.
- Slowly pull the tongue scraper forward until you reach the tip of your tongue.
- Scrape once or twice over the same area of your tongue and use a cloth to clean the scraper between each scrape.
- Repeat this until you’ve scraped your entire tongue.
- After each tongue scraping, rinse your tongue scraper with warm water and soap. Remove any excess water, then place it in a clean, dry spot.
You should never scrape from the front of your tongue to the back. This will not have the desired effect.
Scraping your tongue should take you less than two minutes.
Should you scrape a white tongue?
A white tongue, observed when your tongue is covered in a thick layer of a white substance, can happen as a result of debris and bacteria build-up. This white material can cover your entire tongue or appear in patches, and you may notice bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth, and unusual redness.
Scraping a white tongue could help get rid of it, but also consult with a healthcare provider if you have a white tongue. It could be a symptom of a large issue, such as:
- Hairy tongue
- Tongue rash
- Mouth fungus
- Mouth cancer
Depending on your condition, you may need to scrape your tongue and also take other actions to improve your oral hygiene, like:
- Drinking more water
- Using a softer toothbrush
- Using a mild fluoride toothpaste that doesn’t have sodium lauryl sulfate
- Using mouthwash with fluoride in it
- Drinking cold drinks through a straw
- Cutting out irritating substances like alcohol, cigarettes, and spicy, acidic, salty, or hot foods
- Taking over-the-counter painkillers if necessary
Halitosis and tongue scraping
If you notice that your breath is worse than normal and this order is difficult to get rid of, you may have halitosis. In many cases, you will need to improve your dental hygiene routine to combat the bad breath. This includes scraping your tongue or using a toothbrush that has a tongue cleaner built into it.
Your diet also has a large role in your tongue’s health. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is a natural way to clean your tongue, but it’s not likely that you will eat enough to keep your tongue perfectly clean, though.
When food debris gets stuck on your tongue or you don’t eat enough food, you’re more likely to develop halitosis. Pay particular attention to the back of your tongue, where particles usually get stuck.
When to see a dentist
If you’re in pain or notice that your tongue’s appearance doesn’t seem right, observing discoloration or sores, visit your dentist. Sometimes, it’s more complicated than trying to improve your breath and tongue issues; these could be a sign of underlying diabetes, stroke, thrush, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disease, or another condition.