Before I started dental school, I never used to clean my tongue. I had always heard that it was good to brush and floss, but I thought that cleaning my tongue was overkill.
A couple of years ago, I decided to start using a tongue scraper to clean my tongue every night before going to bed. After doing that for a while I noticed that I never had that “morning breath” taste in my mouth when I woke up in the morning.
It turns out that I’m not the only one that experienced better breath due to tongue cleaning — numerous studies show that brushing and/or scraping your tongue can help get rid of bad breath.
How Do Studies Measure Bad Breath?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering how studies can show that people have better breath. I wondered if there was a “breath guru” out there that smelled everyone’s breath and impartially declared “That stinks” or “Smells good.” Although that would make these studies more exciting, they actually use a little device called a “sulfide meter” that detects the amount of stinky sulfur compounds in the participants’ breath.
Scraping or Brushing Your Tongue Can Get Rid of Bad Breath
Your tongue has lots of tiny little projections. It’s easy for food to get trapped in between them. This food can decompose and start to smell pretty crazy, giving you bad breath unless you brush or scrape your tongue to clean out the food.
Two systematic reviews combed through the studies that looked at bad breath and tongue cleaning. Both concluded that tongue cleaning can reduce bad breath.
The first systematic review concluded the following:
This review demonstrated that mechanical approaches, such as tongue rushing or tongue scraping to clean the dorsum of the tongue, have the potential to successfully reduce breath odour and TC.”
(In case you’re wondering, TC was their code word for tongue coating.)
This other systematic review from Cochrane states that bad breath was reduced 40-75% by simply cleaning the tongue. It said that scraping the tongue gave better results than just brushing the tongue.
Is it Better to Scrape or Brush Your Tongue to Get Rid of Bad Breath?
The studies seem to support that it is better to scrape your tongue rather than brush it to get rid of bad breath. I do both.
My nightly routine usually consists of flossing, brushing my teeth, brushing my tongue, and then scraping away everything off of my tongue that I loosened by brushing. Aside from enjoying better breath, I’ve noticed that my tongue no longer has the white coating that it used to have.
Where Can You Buy a Tongue Scraper?
This one is less than $2 and has a 5 star review rating: Butler G-U-M Fresh-R Tongue Cleaner
Here’s the best-selling tongue scraper on Amazon: Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner
Here’s a stainless steel tongue scraper that looks like it might hurt! I included it because it does have 18 reviews and a 5 star average rating, so it must be doing something right. Stainless Steel Tongue Sweeper – Model P
Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about cleaning your tongue for better breath? I’d love to hear them in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!