Scraping your tongue every day is an essential oral hygiene practice, it is just as important as brushing your teeth. It’s a very simple practice that involves gently scraping your tongue with a small tool that removes bacteria, toxins, and other residues from the surface of the tongue. Tongue scraping takes only a moment and has many significant benefits.
1. Leads to Better Oral Hygiene
Bacteria in the mouth feed on food debris, dead epithelial cells, and post nasal drip, all which tend to accumulate on the back of the tongue. Practicing good oral hygiene, particularly tongue scraping, helps keep these bacteria in check.
Tongue scraping has been shown to be more effective at reducing the bacteria mutans streptococci than other methods of oral hygiene. Mutans streptococci is the pathogenic species that is primarily responsible for tooth decay and the formation of cavities. By scraping the tongue you increase the health of your entire oral cavity.
2. Improves Your Breath
About 85% of cases of halitosis (bad breath) originate in the mouth. Although there may be other causes of halitosis, such as gum disease, metabolic disorders, and side effects of medications, most cases of halitosis are caused by the bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce waste products known as volatile sulphur compounds, which is what gives our breath a bad smell.
Bacteria are found everywhere in the mouth, but the cause of bad breath is mostly the bacteria that resides on the back of the tongue. Bacteria collects at the back of the tongue because it’s drier than other parts of the mouth and isn’t as easily cleaned by normal activity in the mouth. Since the biofilm on the tongue is the largest contributor to bad breath, spending just a few moments scraping your tongue can go a long way in improving your breath.
Can’t you just brush your tongue?
Using a toothbrush on your tongue is not as effective as using a tongue scraper. Tongue scraping has been shown to reduce volatile sulphur compounds by 75% whereas brushing the tongue reduces them by only 45%. Also, a toothbrush is not designed for brushing the tongue and may actually damage the taste buds.
Related: Benefits of Oil Pulling
3. Increases Your Taste for Healthy Foods
The build-up on the tongue can block taste buds and prevent you from fully tasting your food. When we don’t fully taste our food we are not as satisfied with the foods we eat and may crave unhealthy foods with excessive salt, sugar, and other additives that enhance the flavour. When we become more sensitive to the taste of the foods that we eat we are satisfied by the foods natural flavours.
Because we often eat for taste and not just to satiate our hunger, some people may find that they even eat less, since they are more satisfied with the food they eat. Getting more enjoyment from out food means there is less chance of overeating in order to get the sensory satisfaction that we crave.
Removing the coating on the tongue improves the sense of taste in as little as two weeks of daily tongue scraping.
4. ImprovesYour Digestion
Proper digestion is vital for good health. Digestion begins with taste and the enhanced sense of taste we get by tongue scraping supports our digestive process.
Tongue scraping also helps our digestion because it stimulates saliva production. Saliva is essential for proper digestion because it helps lubricate the food so it can pass down the esophagus. Most importantly, saliva contains digestive enzymes which are necessary for the breakdown of starches and fats.
5. Aids Detoxification of the Body
Most people don’t know that the tongue is actually an eliminative organ. During sleep, our eliminative organs are still working. Some toxins from our body get deposited on the surface of the tongue, and if we don’t remove them when we wake in the morning, the toxins end up getting reabsorbed when we swallow them with our first sip or bite of the day.
When we scrape our tongue before drinking or eating in the morning we prevent this residue from being reabsorbed. This decreases the toxic load on our bodies and improves our general health.
The benefits of tongue scraping for detoxification have been known for thousands of years; tongue scraping is actually an ancient Ayurvedic cleansing technique. Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine and practitioners of Ayurveda state that the removal of Ama (toxins) from the body also results in more clarity of the mind. Tongue scraping also helps balance Kapha dosha. The head is one area where Kapha resides, and too many toxins in this area can lead to a sluggish or foggy mind.
Related: What is Ayurveda?
6. Helps You Become More Aware of Your Health
The tongue reflects our internal health and displays signs of illness, infection, digestive disturbances, and nutritional deficiencies. By paying attention to your tongue every day you may notice more quickly if something is off with your system.
Your tongue will have a thin white coating when your digestion is healthy, a very think coating may indicate insufficient digestion or an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the digestive tract. No coating at all can indicate exhaustion or dehydration. A yellow coating on the tongue may indicate a bacterial infection. Red areas on the tongue may indicate inflammation, heat, or deficiencies of Vitamin B12 or folic acid. And a swollen tongue can mean that you have a digestive deficiency.
The more you know about your tongue the earlier you can detect an imbalance in your body. Doctors of both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have traditionally looked at the tongue to help diagnose and treat patients. Changes in your tongue can help you determine if foods you are eating are not compatible or if you have an imbalance in your system.
How and When to Use Tongue Scraping
Scrape your tongue every day. Scrape your tongue first thing in the morning before drinking or eating anything and before brushing your teeth. If you scrape your tongue only once per day, make sure it is first thing in the morning.
It is better to scrape your tongue twice a day, so you may also want to scrape your tongue before bed or after exercise (exercise activates your eliminative organs). If you are doing a fast or a detox you will also want to scrape your tongue more often.
Some people use an inverted spoon, they are better than nothing, but are certainly not the best tool for the job. For best results use a tongue scraper, a thin, flat U-shaped, piece of metal or plastic. Use a tongue scraper that spans the entire width of your tongue.
Tongue Scraping Technique
- Stick out your tongue and while holding both ends the tongue scraper place it on the back of your tongue.
- Using a firm, yet gentle pressure, pull the tongue scraper over the surface of your tongue down to the tip in one stroke.
- Rinse the tongue scraper and repeat until your tongue is free of any white coating (about 7-14 times).
If you trigger your gag reflex while scraping the tongue you may be scraping too aggressively or are going to far back. Scrape more gently or begin scraping more forward on the tongue to avoid triggering the gag reflex.
Follow your tongue scraping with oil pulling for a more complete oral hygiene regime.