You brush twice a day, floss before bedtime, and may even use a Waterpik® to blast away tough-clinging debris. But have you scraped your tongue? Like your teeth and gums, your tongue is a breeding ground for bacteria. Most of it is beneficial, but some are strains that can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.
At Union Square Dental in the Flatiron district of Manhattan in New York City, our expert team of dental professionals wants to impress upon our patients the importance of cleaning all your dental structures, including scraping your tongue. Here’s why we believe that you should be adding this step to your dental hygiene regimen.
What is a tongue scraper?
If you’re going to scrape your tongue, you need a proper tongue scraper. You can find ones made out of plastic, copper, and stainless steel at your local pharmacy. Most have a slightly rounded shape, like an inverted spoon. A lot of people assume a toothbrush will do just fine, but you should only use one in a pinch; it’s not the right tool for the job.
Tongue scraping’s goal is to remove bacteria and food debris that cling to the surface of your tongue. Position the tool at the back of your tongue and run it forward. Clean the scraper after each pass so you don’t redeposit material on the tongue. You should be able to remove most of the buildup in one or two passes.
The benefits of tongue scraping
Tongue scraping offers benefits:
Improves your sense of taste
Using a tongue scraper twice a day improves your sense of taste. By removing bacteria, your taste buds may be able to better discriminate between bitter, sweet, salty, and sour tastes.
Improves the appearance of your tongue
Bacteria and food buildup can give your tongue a white or coated appearance. Daily scraping not only removes the whiteness, but it also prevents it from returning.
Improves overall health
Removing bacteria is key to preventing dental caries, gum disease, and infections of the mouth. If the bacteria aren’t removed, those infections can travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, causing disease.
Misconceptions about tongue scraping
It’s essential to understand what tongue scraping can and can’t do. A common misconception is that it provides extended benefits in reducing bad breath. While removing odor-causing bacteria does help bad breath, consistency is what’s important.
For example, if you use a tongue scraper in the morning, it’s quite possible that you’ll develop bad breath later in the day since, as you eat and drink, bacteria build-up. Scraping after every meal is one way to avoid the odor problem.
Another misconception is that using a toothbrush on your tongue is just as effective as a tongue scraper. Unfortunately, a toothbrush doesn’t remove as much bacteria.
It’s true, though, that tongue scraping can be difficult for some people, particularly those with a strong gag reflex. You can avoid the problem by positioning the scraper more toward the center of the tongue than all the way at the back. It won’t get everything, but it will help.
It’s also important not to skimp on scraper quality. A low-quality product can easily inflict cuts and other damage to your tongue. If you’re not sure what to get, ask our team for a recommendation.
Should you be scraping your tongue? Our dentists at Union Square Dental highly recommend it for improving your oral health. To learn more, or to schedule an appointment for a dental cleaning or other services, call our office at 212-675-7877, or book online today.