There is plenty of evidence substantiating the connection between what people eat and their overall health. But mouth wellness may play a more significant role in systemic and inflammatory diseases than we think. Because the bacteria that causes gum disease has been linked to cardiac and other health issues, employing a tongue scraper in conjunction with brushing can provide an array of benefits.

Improved Taste

Decreasing dietary sodium is one of the best ways to improve overall health, but if your ability to taste is not at full strength, stopping the salt is challenging. In a study of 90 individuals following a tongue-cleaning routine, results show the subjects' ability to taste salt intensified. Using a tongue scraper to reduce the thick coating on the small nodules called papillae improves an individual's ability to taste all flavors, especially saltiness.

tongue scraper taste JackF / Getty Images


Volatile Sulfur Compounds

That greyish-white residue on the tongue is typically composed of secretions, such as postnasal deposits and dead epithelial cells. The buildup contributes to the creation of VSCs — volatile sulfur compounds — which are responsible for the majority of the intraoral halitosis cases. Research shows tongue scrapers reduce VSCs by 75 percent, while a toothbrush got rid of only 45 percent.


Fights Oral Thrush

Tongue color says a lot more about your health than you might realize. Tongues with white creamy streaks or patches with a consistency similar to cottage cheese could be harboring an oral candidiasis infection, also known as oral thrush. This fungal infection may require prescription medication, but it is easily prevented by regular tongue scraping.


Salivary Mutans Streptococci

While many associate tongue scraping with adults, children can also reap the benefits. Salivary mutans streptococci, SMS, is a bacterium that is particularly good at adhering to the surfaces of children's teeth, leading to decay. One study of kids who used tongue scrapers twice a day for three weeks showed decreased bacteria colony counts, significantly reducing that risk.


When to Scrape

As time goes on, more and more dentists recommend tongue scraping are a regular part of the oral hygiene process. The question is where in your routine to add this step. Most experts recommend using the tongue scraper after brushing, rinsing, and flossing. Be sure to rinse again after scraping.

brushing rinsing flossing Mukhina1 / Getty Images


How to Scrape

All tongue scrapers have the same basic design, usually an inverted U-shape, which allows them scrape more of the tongue at once. Stick out your tongue and place the scraper as far back as possible, but not so far back that it makes you gag. With gentle pressure, pull it toward the front of your tongue. Repeat this process as many times as needed.

how to use a tongue scraper


Plastic Tongue Scrapers

Plastic tongue scrapers are everywhere. They are usually gentle, allowing a smoother scraping process. Because they are made from disposable plastic, they weaken easily. Their lifespan is between three and four months, which means they can be swapped out at the same time as a toothbrush.

disposable plastic smooth AndreyPopov / Getty Images


Metal Tongue Scrapers

There are two popular types of metallic scrapers: copper and stainless steel. Copper is a naturally antimicrobial surface that kills pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and viruses upon contact, making it a more desirable material. While this kind of scraper lasts for years, it tarnishes after a certain point and is more costly. Stainless steel doesn't tarnish, is hygienic, has lifetime durability, and is easy to clean.

copper stainless steel Rorygez Fresh / Getty Images


Risks of Tongue Scraping

There are at least two concerns regarding tongue scraping. The first is triggering the gag reflex and vomiting by going too far back with the scraper. To prevent this, gradually ease the scraper as far back as is comfortable. The second concern is cutting the tongue, especially when using a metal scraper, which has a sharper edge. This can damage taste buds, so always be gentle.

nausea due to gag reflex


History of Tongue Scraper

While it may seem like the tongue scraper is a recent invention, its use goes back at least 6,000 years. People in ancient India, Africa, and Arabia used materials of the time, including whalebone, ivory, and certain metals. According to Ayurveda — traditional Indian medicine — scraping a certain section of the tongue may stimulate the colon.

India ancient Ayurveda remedy


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