Is Tongue Scraping Necessary? What Are the Benefits of Tongue Cleaning?

November 11, 2020 2 min read

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What is tongue cleaning or tongue scraping? It is exactly what it sounds like, cleaning your tongue from food particles and bacterial build up. These leftover particles and bacterial byproducts can accumulate and contribute to:

  • Bad breath
  • A bacterial imbalance in your oral microbiome
  • Tooth decay and gum disease
  • A reduced sense of taste
  • Giving your tongue a unattractive coating and even a “hairy” appearance

Cleaning your tongue is not a new idea. In fact, it has been around for centuries. Its earliest use is found in ancient Ayurvedic medicine where it was a recommended practice for removing toxins and cleansing one’s mouth. The practice gained popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, particularly amongst the more affluent classes.

How does tongue cleaning (scraping) work?

While your tongue may feel pretty smooth to you (at least it should) the fact is that it is full of little crevices and pockets. Your tongue makes the perfect place for bacteria to grow as it is warm, moist and there is a steady supply of food. All of those little crevices and pockets trap particles of food that not only feed the bacteria but get rather stinky as the food decomposes.

Our ancient ancestors ate a lot of rough food with fiber, this helped to keep the tongue and mouth cleaner. But, in today’s world, we are more likely to eat foods that are low in fiber as well as those that are higher in carbohydrates and sugars. This combination contributes to the bacterial growth on your tongue (in fact, the entire mouth). This leads to bacterial overgrowth that exceeds the body’s natural process to rid itself of bacteria as well as to keep the oral bacteria in balance.

Tongue cleaning works to remove food particles and to control the bacteria (along with their by-products) that accumulate on the tongue.

The result is a healthier and fresher smelling mouth. This is supported by scientific studies.

For example, the primary source of bad breath is the gases, or fumes, given off by bacteria in your mouth. The scientific name for these gases is “Volatile Sulfur Compounds” or VSC for short. So, you can measure bad breath by the levels of VSCs.

An important indicator of gum inflammation, gingivitis, in your mouth is a measurement of Gingival Crevicular Fluid (GCF is basically fluid in your gum crevices) that shows how much inflammation is present in your gums. 

Scientific studies show that tongue cleaning, when added to routine dental hygiene, produces significantly better results at controlling bad breath and gum inflammation than the subjects that only did routine oral hygiene. (Tongue cleaning reduces the VSCs and levels of GCF)

Simply put, the majority of bacteria in your mouth accumulates in and on your tongue. While a balance of healthy bacteria is an essential and vital part of your mouth, you can have too much of a good thing. Add to that some old food, fungi, dirt, dead cells and you have a fairly filthy mix.

A simple tongue cleaning takes seconds and should be a part of your daily dental routine, so let's make it a habit.


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