At every dental appointment, dental patients are reminded of the importance of their at-home oral hygiene practices: Brush your teeth, floss, rinse and so on. Everyone knows the basics, but have you heard of tongue scraping?
Your tongue is a big muscle covered in tons of little bumps called papillae, where your taste buds live. It helps you eat food and drink water. That means that everything that touches and gets stuck in your teeth also touches your tongue—and it doesn’t all go away when you brush, floss, or rinse.
The tongue is constantly exposed to bacteria just like teeth are, and it can hold onto them really well thanks to its bumpy texture. If you ever notice a white film on your tongue, it could be bacteria or plaque—and if you don’t clean it, the bacteria can make their way onto your teeth even if you’ve recently brushed and flossed.
That’s where tongue scraping comes in. The best way to clean the plaque and bacteria off your tongue is to scrape it. There are tools made specifically to help you scrape your teeth: They’re called (surprise, surprise!) tongue scrapers.
When using a tongue scraper, start at the back of your tongue and gently but firmly scrape toward the tip of your tongue. After each scrape, wipe off the scraper to get rid of any residue. You might only need to scrape once, but we recommend you do it each time you brush your teeth. Alternatively, you can use a spoon or simply brush your tongue with a toothbrush, but neither is as effective as using a scraper.
There are more benefits to tongue scraping than just a clean tongue. It can also reduce bad breath, improve your sense of taste (think of all the clean taste buds!) and even improve your oral appearance. Regularly scraping your tongue should keep it a nice, healthy pink color.
As with all dental care, consistency is key. Just like you should brush your teeth twice a day, you’ll only see improvements to your tongue if you clean it every day.