Tongue Scraping: Are There Any Benefits?

Bonus: it does combat bad breath.

When it comes to oral hygiene, we all know we're meant to brush and floss regularly (even if everyone knows we do more of the former than the latter).

But tongue scraping is another practice doing the dental hygiene rounds, claiming to remove toxins, banish bad breath and even improve your taste buds.

The premise is fairly simple: by using a tongue scraper you can more effectively remove built up bacteria from the surface of your tongue, thereby increasing the quality of your oral hygiene.

But does it actually work? Or is it just a fashionable but unnecessary step to add to your already busy morning routine?

Well, it depends on what you were hoping to get out of it in the first place.

Does tongue scraping help bad breath?

This is one of the areas in which using a tongue scraper can deliver results.

"As far as tongue scraping goes, some clinicians will use it as an effective means to reduce bad breath," Dr Peter Zilm from the Adelaide Dental School, University of Adelaide told HuffPost Australia.

"At the end of the day, bacteria in the mouth is responsible for bad breath, and a short term way of reducing that is to scrape the tongue.

There's no harm in adding tongue scraping to your morning routine, just don't expect added health benefits.
There's no harm in adding tongue scraping to your morning routine, just don't expect added health benefits.

"So you will get certain people, and that's the main point -- not everyone -- but some people who get large buildup of bacteria will [benefit from tongue scraping] because it is essentially the manual removal of the bacteria which cause the compounds that produce bad breath."

But according to Zilm, this is pretty much where the proven health benefits of tongue scraping end.

"In terms of toxins and all those sorts of things, it's extremely unlikely that tongue scraping is going to have any effect on general health or general well-being."

Do I need a tongue scraper?

Or, in other words, can't I just use my toothbrush to clean my tongue instead?

"A lot of people try to do the tongue scraping with a toothbrush, but a toothbrush is designed to clean a hard surface like a tooth," holistic dentist Dr Lewis Ehrlich told HuffPost Australia.

"You actually need something a bit more rigid so you can effectively clean the tongue, which is obviously soft.

Sorry mate, that's not going to cut it.
Sorry mate, that's not going to cut it.

"But also there are some other anatomical variations in people's tongues, like for instance some people have a fissured tongue, so there are like fissures running through the tongue which can be quite a neat place for bacteria to hide.

"It can be a neat thing for them to be doing in order to reduce the risk of bad breath."

What tongue scraping won't do

There have been some claims that regular tongue scraping, by removing a buildup of toxins, can boost your immunity, improve your digestive health and also assist with your general well-being.

"Using a tongue scraper is only targeting a group of bacteria, and that's the ones on the tongue," Zilm said. "And there is nothing special about your tongue. It's just a place where bacteria can reside.

"Most people who don't suffer from bad breath have no real reason to [use a tongue scraper] though I guess it could make your mouth feel generally cleaner, which can give you a good feeling.

"However there is nothing in scientific literature which says tongue scraping promotes general well being and general health."