What you need to know about this viral oral hygiene technique

Should you include tongue scraping in your oral hygiene routine? We ask the experts about the trending oral care technique.

Whether to help bust bad breath or keep the tongue looking clean, it seems more people are adding tongue scraping to their oral hygiene routine.

But how does this cleaning technique work? And is it safe to scrape your tongue?

We ask the experts for the details.

What is tongue scraping?

Tongue scraping is the process of running a specially designed tool – typically, a metal or plastic U-shaped contraption – across the surface of the tongue to help remove debris, dead cells and bacteria that can contribute to dragon breath.

While tongue scraping isn’t considered an essential part of dental health, Maven Dental Robina dental hygienist Sarah Cash says it’s become a popular addition to the brushing and flossing routine.

“Our mouth is typically home to over 700 forms of bacteria, many of which collect on the rough surface of our tongue,” Sarah says.

“For most (people), the removal of bacteria is welcomed.”

What are the benefits of tongue scraping?

Sarah says tongue scraping can especially help those with a stained or coated tongue caused by a build-up of material from having a dry mouth, smoking, drinking red wine, medication use, or inconsistent brushing.

The benefits of cleaning the tongue through scraping also extend to overall oral health, according to Bupa Dental head dentist Dr Cathryn Madden.

“(It) can reduce the large amounts of bacteria living on the tongue, with some studies suggesting that this may improve gum and tooth health, as well as improve mouth freshness,” Dr Madden says.

Which type of tongue scraper is best?

Whether you opt for a metal, plastic or even a copper tongue scraper, Sarah says there’s no right or wrong choice.

“Some prefer the durability of a metal scraper, whereas others prefer the flexibility and gentleness of plastic,” she says.

“Whatever you choose, ensure it is easy to clean, has a good ergonomic shape for its purpose, and that it’s replaced often.”

How do you safely use a tongue scraper?

With the right technique, tongue scraping is safe and easy to do.

“To use a tongue scraper, stick out your tongue and start gently at the back of the tongue, pulling or brushing forward, using water to lubricate the process so the scraper doesn’t drag along the tongue surface,” Sarah says.

“It is important to be very gentle because the tongue’s surface is delicate and sensitive.

“Swish water around your mouth afterwards, and rinse off the scraper once finished.”

To reap the full benefits of tongue scraping, consistency is key.

An early study found that tongue scraping twice daily for a week was enough to significantly reduce bacteria and decrease bad breath.

Dr Madden recommends making a habit of tongue scraping to get the best results.

“Tongue scraping can be added to your daily routine in addition to brushing twice daily and flossing daily,” she says.

How else can you clean your tongue?

If scraping doesn’t sound like your thing, you can also brush your tongue with a toothbrush – in particular, the types with a scraper on the back of the head, Dr Madden says.

Whichever tongue-cleaning method you choose, it should complement your regular oral hygiene habits.

“In addition to brushing twice daily with a fluoride paste, cleaning between our teeth daily, tongue scraping, and using a mouth rinse, we should also drink plenty of water, stop smoking, maintain a low-sugar diet and get regular dental check-ups,” Dr Madden says.

Is tongue scraping suitable for you?

If you’re still unsure about tongue scraping, Sarah recommends running it by your dentist.

“The decision to include tongue scraping in your oral hygiene routine is a personal one, and not a one-size-fits-all recommendation,” Sarah says.

“It’s a good idea to consult your dentist or hygienist for information and personalised advice based on your oral health status and preferences.”

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Written by Hayley Hinze.