By now, most people know that the keys to great oral health are daily brushing and flossing, coupled with regular visits to the family dental practice for checkups and cleanings. Our teeth and gums depend on these practices to remain healthy. Emerging evidence also suggests that our oral health can also influence our overall health; germs and plaque buildup in the mouth can lead to serious and even dangerous conditions like heart disease. One of the overlooked areas in maintaining our great oral health is tongue scraping (cleaning the tongue using a toothbrush or specialized scraping tool). Here, we’ll take a deeper look at tongue scraping and discuss some of its potential benefits to our oral health.
What is Tongue Scraping?
When we brush our teeth and floss between them, the goal behind our efforts is to remove buildup on the teeth and along the gumline. Food particles and sticky residues from beverages and snacks are a breeding ground for bacteria; accumulations of this bacteria can lead to the formation of plaque, which can eventually cause tooth decay.
What about the tongue? Our tongues are a repository for buildup, yet we often overlook this part of our mouths. Tongue scraping is a simple process designed to reduce or eliminate harmful bacteria and buildup in the mouth. In simple terms, one uses a specially-designed tongue scraper or a toothbrush to gently remove debris from the tongue.
What are the Benefits of Tongue Scraping?
Dental scientists have been studying the effects of tongue scraping for several years. While studies are ongoing, several potential benefits of this practice have emerged. Benefits of tongue scraping include:
- Removal of odor-causing chemical substances known as volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). These compounds are a contributor to bad breath.
- Reduction in levels of decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can lead to cavities, gingivitis, or mouth ulcers if not controlled.
- Reduction in the amount of Candida yeasts in the mouth. Candida can cause oral yeast infections.
- Improvement in taste sensations among individuals who conduct regular tongue scraping.
Unfortunately, study sizes on the benefits of tongue scraping tend to be small, making it difficult for dental researchers to truly pinpoint specific benefits. With that said, evidence being collected suggests that there are benefits, and continued research will attempt to get more concrete answers on how tongue scraping contributes to oral health.
How Can I Scrape My Tongue?
The means by which individuals can incorporate tongue scraping into their daily health routines is relatively easy and does not even require specialized equipment. Some people prefer a dedicated plastic or metal scraper, while others just use their toothbrushes to remove buildup from tongue surfaces.
Here is a step-by-step guide to tongue scraping:
- After brushing and flossing, open the mouth and place the toothbrush or tongue scraper on the back of the tongue.
- Gently pull the brush or scraper forward toward the tip of the tongue. Gentle pressure is the key to avoiding discomfort; if scraping hurts, chances are you are using too much pressure.
- Rinse the brush or scraper after each pass in warm water.
- Continue scraping the top, sides, and tip of the tongue until all surfaces have been reached.
- When finished scraping, rinse the mouth out with water or a mouthwash solution, then spit it out.
- Wash the brush or tongue scraper with warm water, then store in a clean, dry place until the next use.
Talk to your family dentist, such as Thomas E. Cooke, D.D.S., about adding tongue scraping to your daily oral health routines. He or she may suggest scrapers or techniques to make the process more effective. Tongue scraping’s benefits are not yet clearly understood, but this addition to great oral health is worth the extra effort.