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Most of us know good oral hygiene includes brushing, flossing and rinsing, but do you scrape your tongue?
In this guide, we’ll discuss the ancient origins of tongue scraping and how it can transform your oral health almost overnight.
WHAT IS A TONGUE SCRAPER?
A tongue scraper or tongue tingler is traditionally a length of copper bent to a "U" shape.
It is used to scrape debris and bacteria from the tongue, to leave it looking healthier, feeling fresher and improving the breath.
HOW DOES TONGUE SCRAPING WORK?
This makes our mouths the most bacteria rich areas of our bodies. Packed with natural good and bad bugs, the mouth can be a breeding ground for infections and unpleasant smells.
Tongue scraping cleans your tongue, removing surplus bacteria, food waste and dead cells.
This holistic approach to mouth hygiene is reputed to promote a healthy tongue improving oral and digestive health.
Studies as recently as 2006 have reinforced that it can help bad breath, by decreasing the levels of odour molecules in the mouth.
Tongue scraping has its roots in Ayurveda, the practice of traditional Indian medicine.
Ayuverda practitioners encourage tongue cleaning as part of one's daily hygiene regimen, to remove the toxic debris, known as Ama. This practice is centuries old and scrapers made of brass, gold and copper have all been commonly used, although copper and plastic are most widely chosen today.
Whilst Eastern cultures have practiced tongue hygiene since ancient times, western civilizations placed less emphasis on tongue cleaning, preferring brushing and rinsing to keep the mouth clean.
Tongue scraping has enjoyed a resurgence in the last century, as we rediscovered ancient wellbeing practices and learned more about bacterial properties.
The Benefits of Tongue Scraping
Studies show bacteria on the tongue produce bad smelling compounds and fatty acids that account for up to 85% of bad breath cases (the remaining causes being infections of the throat and teeth).
In addition, as the good bacteria in your mouth breaks down food residue and skin cells, organosulfur compounds (volatile sulfur compounds) are created that don’t smell pleasant.
Tongue scraping and removing this residue has been evidenced to improve the overall smell for longer than brushing alone.
There is little less attractive than a tongue coated in heavy white or yellow residues, although that can be normal.
Scraping removes the discolouration and increases blood flow, restoring pinkness. Whilst this isn’t a health necessity, many people consider it more attractive, youthful and a sign of good hygiene.
It is not surprising that all the bacteria on the tongue can lead to gum and teeth issues, even if you’re brushing well.
People with gum diseases are more likely to have a thicker tongue coating and more microbes that attack the gums and coat the teeth in enamel damaging residue.
Tongue scraping may help to reduce the impact of this and decrease the likelihood of gum diseases.
Concerns around tongue scraping
Tongue cleaning can cause discomfort, so go gently. You just want to lift the bacteria, not the whole surface of the tongue.
Don’t go too far towards the back of the mouth, you’ll make yourself gag and don’t do it too often or again you can harm the tongue's surface.
It is vital you clean your copper tongue scraper regularly and disinfect at least weekly. If you have any issues with heart infection, it may be best to avoid tongue scraping.
Types of tongue scrapers
You can clean your gum with a toothbrush, but electric brushes especially are too vigorous and can harm the delicate coating.
Tongue scrapers are better for the surface of the tongue as they’re designed to lift the coating off, not dig into the surface of the flesh.
You can get plastic tongue scrapers, but these are usually non-biodegradable single use plastics that will still be around in 1000 years. That’s why we prefer the traditional ‘copper’ shapes that gently “rake" the mouth.
WHY WE PREFER COPPER TONGUE SCRAPERS?
Copper has proven antimicrobial and anti-bacterial benefits, and it creates vital enzymes that enhance the production of good bacteria and other important microbes in your mouth.
It’s also a natural material, so won’t overload the planet with waste.