You may be wondering why, or even if, tongue scraping should be a part of your daily dental routine. While tongue scraping has only recently entered the health and beauty space in the West, this practice has formed part of Ayurvedic tradition for 5000 years. And with good reason.
According to Ayurveda, this gentle practice removes toxicity, improves the ability to taste and hints at health, acting as a barometer for the body. Scraping, then, removes pathological — nasty — bacteria, viruses and fungi and buildup that can cause harm. Tongue scraping effectively clears out bugs that, once swallowed, gain access to our inner bowels. (Pun intended)
The oral cavity hosts over 700 species of organisms, including those aforementioned bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bad bugs may cause tooth decay, tummy troubles1https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32464078/, and even heart disease. Because the mouth consists of several different habitats, it is a complex community where microbes colonize hard surfaces of the teeth and soft tissues of the oral mucosa. Of course there isn’t an invisible wall that stops a bug from ‘hopping’ between the tongue and other habitats.
Why tongue cleaning should form an essential part of your oral routine
It’s strange, really, that we brush our teeth religiously. We have had the habit drummed into us since childhood. Yet, a lot of people still rarely consider our tongue — that big, broad expanse right in the middle of the mouth.
Imagine cleaning a dirty pot… but only scrubbing the sides. The base would remain mucky. It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Yet, that’s what we do when we brush our teeth but don’t scrape our tongues. Research over the past 15 years confirms how essential tongue cleaning is – it removes soft plaque and bacteria such as strep bacteria, improves the sense of taste and of course, is a key element in preventing bad breath. No wonder both Ayurvedists and dental professionals recommend that tongue cleaning be an essential part of your oral routine. You deserve a daily ‘tongue cleanse’.
Why tongue scraping is the first step
As we sleep, our bodies are detoxifying. That film you see on your tongue when you wake up in the morning is made up of toxins excreted from your body overnight. Your body has done incredible detoxification work and you certainly don’t want to re-ingest it. By scraping your tongue, you remove the ‘sludge’ from your tongue AND body.
How can tongue cleaning rejuvenate and revive your mouth and body?
There’s a reason tongue cleaning has caught on like wildfire. The internet allows people to rapidly share knowledge… including researchers.
Reduces bad breath (halitosis)
The article Halitosis2https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/867570-overview, published on MedScape, noted that bad breath is a result of bacteria on the the tongue releasing ‘fetid substances’ (aka bad odors). By cleaning the tongue twice daily, bacterial load and bad breath are reduced. But there’s a catch. Tongue scrapers, rather than toothbrushes, are required to produce beneficial results3https://europepmc.org/article/med/17004573.
Prevents and treats gingivitis
As plaque builds it forms tartar, a hardened substance that attracts bacteria. This irritates the gum line and causes inflammation, otherwise known as gingivitis.
Can you believe that daily tongue scraping has been shown to reverse plaque levels4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4086606/, helping protect you against plaque issues? It is also helpful in managing gingivitis5https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30218226/.
It’s not surprising that removing bacteria that produce a foul flavor or odor should improve taste. And it does. Research shows that with cleaner taste buds, the taste sensation improves in as little as two weeks of tongue scraping!6https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15191584/
Jump starts digestion and elimination
As we know, digestion starts in the mouth — the enzymes in our saliva start to break down food before it even gets to the gut. If our taste buds are blocked because of accumulated mucus on the tongue, the message to our brain that activates the relevant enzymes required for digestion can be impaired. Tongue scraping ensures that the surface of the tongue is clean and ready for action.
According to Eastern medicine including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, our tongue is a mirror reflection of our internal organs – different parts of the tongue correspond to different organs. Since the tongue is connected to various organs of the body, applying gentle pressure of a tongue scraper activates the corresponding organ as well.
How to scrape your tongue
So now that we know the why and that it is essential…let’s take a look at the how.
First, use an antibacterial stainless steel or copper tongue scraper. These tools are specifically designed for this task.
Next, hold your scraper by both handles. Relax and poke out your tongue. Place the scraper toward the back of your tongue, as far as is comfortable. For the first few days, don’t reach too far back – just where it is comfortable. Gently and firmly, draw your scraper forward so you cover the entire surface of your tongue, from back to front. Clean your scraper with warm water. Repeat several times.
A morning routine should include tongue scraping, flossing, teeth brushing, and oil pulling. An evening routine should include tongue scraping, flossing and teeth brushing.
Adding this simple habit to your routine can reduce bad breath, calm gingivitis, improve your taste and jump start digestion. It is clear the proven benefits of the easy, quick, 10-second regimen of tongue scraping should absolutely be part of every dental hygiene routine.
In the next article, we dive deeper into the best type of scraper to protect your tongue and health (note: there is a common choice that can damage your tongue and lead to increased bacterial load).