When we think about the items we use for performing our daily oral hygiene routine, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash and rinse cups come to mind — but what about a tongue scraper? Using this often-overlooked device can help maintain fresher breath and improve health.
Tongue scraping is a practice of Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine originating in India, based on the belief that health and wellness are achieved by maintaining balance of the mind, body and spirit. It helps prevent halitosis by removing sulfur compounds that build up on the surface of the tongue, and it can help maintain healthy keratin balance, in addition to eliminating buildup caused by smoking, dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, yeast infection or medication use.
This gentle scraping of the tongue also is one of the best ways to counter hairy tongue, which occurs in as much as 13% of the population, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, and can be caused by poor oral hygiene, chronic use of antibiotics, radiation treatment to the head and neck, tobacco use, as well as excessive coffee or tea drinking.
Additional benefits include enhanced sense of taste, and even smell, due to removal of bacteria and blockage on taste buds. Decreasing the bacterial load in the oral cavity may further combat bad breath and dental decay when used with proper brushing and flossing techniques. This practice stimulates the tongue and internal organs as you wake up, enhancing digestive capacity and kick starting your metabolism. (In Ayurveda, the tongue is thought to be a blueprint to the whole body with different parts of the tongue corresponding to different vital organs).
Tips to provide your patients
Ideally, it is best to start incorporating tongue scraping into the morning oral hygiene routine, as it aids the body in eliminating toxins that have accumulated in the mouth overnight, particularly that white coating on the tongue of natural toxins referred to as ama in Ayurveda. However, you can incorporate this practice whenever you brush your teeth. Tongue scrapers are widely available online or at your local pharmacy.
Here’s how you do it: After brushing and flossing, stick your tongue out and place the tongue scraper to the back of your tongue and gently press while being careful not to stimulate your gag reflex or cause trauma to your tongue. Next, slowly draw the tongue scraper forward anteriorly. Rinse tongue cleaner under running water and gently repeat several times until clean. Once satisfied, rinse mouth with water or mouthwash.
While there are no drawbacks to properly incorporating tongue scraping into your oral hygiene routine to treat morning breath, it’s just as important to practice good dental hygiene overall:
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day, as soon as possible after you eat.
- Rinse or gargle with water or mouthwash.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dry mouth, a cause of bad breath.
- Schedule regular dental checkups at least every six months.
- If your tongue shows other signs of unhealthiness such as any white, black or red discolorations as well as sores or pain, contact your dentist for a follow up.
~Yogin Patel, Nova Southeastern ’21