By Karen Espig

It may sound a bit like a mediaeval torture technique, but tongue scraping can be a simple, painless, and effective part of your oral healthcare. And, since there are over 81 million searches on this topic on TikTok, I think we need to find out more!

It may surprise you to know that tongue cleaning has been a much-used practice for centuries in Europe and has been traced back over 3000 years to India. It is part of the alternative medical practice of Ayurveda and is called Jihwa Prakshalana. In Ayurvedic medicine, the tongue’s health is thought to reflect the health of the whole body and tongue cleaning is believed to remove ama (or accumulated toxins). 

So, you see, it is not some new-fangled trend!

Are There Any Benefits?

Tongue scraping removes bacteria, food particles and dead cells from the tongue’s surface that may appear as a whitish coating. This sounds like a fantastic outcome all on its own! In addition to your mouth feeling fresh in-the-moment, regular scraping may reduce bad breath and return your tongue to a healthy pink colour.

Not only will your tongue look and feel better, but you may also experience an improvement in your dining experience. Scraping removes food residue from the surface of your tastebuds, allowing for a refreshed palate. Yum!

While research is still in its infancy, there is also some indication that good oral health translates into good overall health. Reducing the harmful bacteria in your mouth is critical, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Isn’t Brushing, Flossing, And Rinsing Enough?

The recommendations of brushing, flossing and using mouthwash are invaluable in keeping your mouth healthy. While tongue scraping may not be on your dentist’s to-do list yet, it is another tool in the toolbox. It costs very little and has no negative effects, so why wouldn’t you do it?

What Kind Should I Buy?

Tongue scrapers were originally made from wood, metal, ivory, shell, or bone. Nowadays, you will find many options available in metal or plastic for under $10. Plastic is less expensive but will not last as long as metal. Ayurvedic medicine recommends copper, but stainless steel will do just fine. 

Two basic shapes are available, depending on whether you wish to use one hand or both. The two-handed version is u-shaped and scrapes a large portion of the tongue all at once, while the one-handed triangle-shaped version covers a smaller patch. 

If you tend to have trouble with your gag reflex, you may wish to start with the one-handed option. The scraper should have no sharp edges and be thoroughly cleaned before each use.

Unsure about whether tongue scraping will be for you? Then try an inexpensive plastic one, or even experiment using the side of a small spoon or a wooden tongue depressor. 

How Do I Do It?

Follow these simple steps before or after brushing and flossing (personally, I do it afterwards) and follow up with a rinse or brush with some water:

  • Stick your tongue out as far as you can. (Rude, I know!)
  • Place the scraper so that it sits flat on your tongue with only light pressure. If you are worried about gagging, start in the middle of the tongue. As you become accustomed to the process, you can move the scraper back to reach the rest.
  • Slowly pull the scraper towards the tip of your tongue. Use only light pressure; do not use it if you have cuts or sores on your tongue. It will be easy to see the residue being moved to the front. I think you will be hooked on the concept from that first pull!
  • Spit and repeat over the entire tongue surface several times until the residue is removed and your beautiful pink tongue is revealed.
  • Rinse your mouth out and enjoy how clean it feels. If your tongue feels tender, you have used too much pressure; ease up next time.
  • Wash the tongue scraper and let it dry, ready for use when you need it again.

It really is simple and may be done anytime during your day to refresh your mouth quickly.

There you have it, tongue scraping. It is no surprise that this practice is trending. It requires minimal time and investment, is simple and has no adverse side effects. Used alongside your existing oral care, it can help reduce cavities and gum disease. It improves how your mouth feels and smells and how your tongue looks. 

And if you decide to embrace the Ayurvedic practice of tongue scraping, you might also take a swing at oil-pulling which also supports oral health. It involves swishing a spoonful of oil (typically coconut or sesame) around the mouth, pulling out toxins and bacteria from between the teeth and under the tongue. 

Here’s to excellent oral hygiene for all!