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Tongue scraper benefits: Why you should clean your tongue as well as your teeth


Scraping your tongue every day improves your teeth, gums and general health – and it's even easier than brushing your teeth

Could tongue scraping become as essential to daily routine as brushing your teeth? Many dental health experts believe it should, since it removes the build-up on your tongue’s surface that can impact your teeth and wider health.

The benefits of using a tongue scraper, also known as a tongue cleaner, mostly come as a result of the removal of harmful bacteria. You’ll have fresher breath, reduce your risk of cavities and gum disease and may even improve your sense of taste.

With most tongue scrapers costing less than £15, these easy-to-use tools offer a cheap way to improve your oral health. But are they just a gimmicky American import? Or, given their origins in India’s widely-respected Ayurvedic medicine, are they the original secret to healthy teeth?

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of tongue scraping for the health of your mouth, teeth and entire body. We’ll also look at whether you need an actual tongue scraper, or whether using your toothbrush is sufficient.

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What is a tongue scraper?

A tongue scraper is a simple, manual tool that’s usually made from plastic or metal. It’s U-shaped at one end and it’s this end that you insert into your mouth and pull across the surface of your tongue to remove any buildup.

tongue-scraper-benefits_GUM-dual-action-tongue-cleaner-scraper-brush on a white background

One of Amazon’s bestsellers, the HouChanges Tongue Cleaner (£4), is a simple stainless steel tool that gets the job done efficiently and will last for years. Some tongue scrapers feature ridges and small brushes for thoroughly cleaning the nooks and crannies of your tongue’s surface. A good example is the GUM Dual Action Tongue Cleaner (£15).

Can’t I just brush my tongue with my toothbrush?

Yes, and it will remove more gunk than using nothing at all. However, a study of various tongue cleaning aids found that the tongue scraper was the most efficient way to remove unwanted buildup from your tongue’s surface, and this includes the “biofilm” that harbours bacteria.

In one test, dedicated tongue scrapers removed nearly double the amount of bacteria from using toothbrushes. Another study, which focused on tongue-cleaning to reduce bad breath, found that plastic tongue scrapers delivered the best results.

Bear in mind that using your toothbrush to clean your tongue as well as your teeth will see you having to replace your brush more quickly. The NHS recommends replacing your toothbrush at least every 2-3 months.

What are the benefits of using a tongue scraper?

Protect your teeth

There are about 20 billion bacteria in your mouth at any one time. They’re not all bad, but many of them spell trouble for your teeth and gums. Troublemakers include Streptococcus mutans, which feast on sugar and pump out acids that dissolve tooth enamel. They’re the main cause of dental decay.


Studies have found that tongue scraping twice a day leads to a “significant decrease” in these harmful bacteria. In children, gentle cleaning with a tongue scraper delivered “statistically significant reductions in plaque levels” after just 10 days, compared with brushing and flossing alone.

Control bad breath

Tongue scraping twice a day is also the best way to remove the odour-causing bacteria from your mouth. Unlike mouthwash, scraping attacks bad breath at source, and keeps it at bay for longer. If you’re off on a date, you would be best scraping your tongue rather than simply gargling alone.

Heal sore gums

Another common oral bacterium that tongue scraping removes is Porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes gum disease and bad breath, and Fusobacterium nucleatum (“F nucleatum”), which joins forces with other harmful bacteria to trigger gum inflammation. Researchers have found that tongue scraping can dramatically reduce levels of F nucleatum following just three days of the practice.

Makes food taste better

Scraping your tongue improves your sense of taste by removing the film that covers your taste buds. Using a tongue scraper, or even just using your toothbrush to keep your tongue clean, enables your tongue to more easily distinguish between bitter, sweet, salty and sour flavours, so you can taste more of what you eat.


Helps your dinner go down

Digestion begins in your mouth, where enzymes in your saliva work with good bacteria to start breaking down your food. Tongue scraping helps to activate these enzymes. In turn, this makes your whole digestive system more efficient, reducing the risk of problems such as heartburn and constipation.

Improves the look of your tongue

A buildup of excess debris can cause a grey-white coating on your tongue. It can be made worse by smoking, infections, inconsistent brushing and some medications. It doesn’t look, taste or smell good, but it’s easy to remove with a tongue scraper.

Eases a sore throat

Harmful oral bacteria can also cause sore throats, mouth ulcers and even tonsillitis. Cleaning your tongue may not seem directly beneficial for your throat, especially if you stick the scraper in too far and gag (go easy there), but a reduction in bacteria such as Streptococci may help prevent and control throat problems.

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Prevents disease

Just as good oral bacteria benefits your whole body, so too do harmful oral bacteria wreak havoc far beyond your mouth. Oral bacteria such as P gingivalis and T denticola are linked to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and poor oral hygiene may contribute to cancer.

Then there are the yeasts that live on your tongue. Tongue cleaning helps to remove harmful yeasts such as Candida, which can weaken your immune system and open the door to illness and infection.

Keeps your body young

Your mouth contains good bacteria as well as bad. Some of your oral bacteria help digest food and protect against harmful microbes. Others are vital for producing nitric oxide, a chemical that enables the repair of old and damaged cells throughout your body, which effectively keeps you young.

Interestingly, tongue scrapers don’t seem to pose much threat to these good bacteria. Tongue cleaning actually appears to help good bacteria to flourish.

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What are the downsides of tongue scraping?

Some dissenters claim that cleaning your tongue too vigorously can damage your taste buds and push bacteria deeper into your tongue’s surface, but we haven’t found much actual research to support this. Just be careful to scrape or brush from the back of your tongue to the tip, not the other way round.

On balance, tongue cleaning is an almost entirely beneficial and very quick habit to add to your routine. Brushing your teeth may be an absolute essential twice a day, but using a tongue scraper – or at least, using your toothbrush to clean your tongue – brings benefits, too, boosting your oral health and beyond.

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