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Clean Tongue No Bad Breath
©DPix Center/

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?

Tongue ScraperIf 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?

Tongue CleanerMost department stores and pharmacies have tongue scrapers for you to purchase.  You can take a look at a few of these that sell well on Amazon and have 4.5 to 5 star reviews:

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!

Forces Trying to Move Your Teeth
©Xavier Gallego Morell/

Did you know that while you are reading this, there are many different forces acting on your teeth?  I’m guessing that right now your tongue is probably slightly resting on the the back of your lower front teeth and the inside of your lips are resting against your front teeth.  If you took a magic school bus ride into the average person”s mouth, you’d probably find the same thing.

Forces On TeethDid you know that both of these forces along with other forces can affect how your smile looks?  In this article, I will go over some of the forces that act on your teeth and how you can make sure that they don’t negatively affect your smile.

Forces that Constantly Try to Move Your Teeth

As I mentioned above, your lips push your teeth into your mouth while your tongue pushes your teeth out.  They eventually find an equilibrium known as the neutral position.

Normally these forces are good.  For example, these forces help keep your teeth arranged in a symmetrical arch.  These forces can also help push permanent lower front teeth out away from the tongue when the permanent teeth come in behind the baby teeth.

However, if the forces in your own mouth get out of hand, they can push your teeth into abnormal positions.

Tongue Habits

Did you know that the average human swallows more than 2,000 times every day!  If you go ahead and swallow right now, you’ll notice that your tongue pushes against your upper front teeth.  As long as you don’t push excessively on your front teeth, usually everything is fine.

Some people have habits that cause them to hold their tongue between their teeth all the time or to push their tongue out excessively when they swallow.

Lip Habits

The forces that your lips apply to your teeth can become a problem if you develop certain habits.  One such habit is tucking your lower lip behind your upper teeth.  This is especially common in younger children and people who bite their lips when they get nervous.


The labial frenum has been accused of moving the front two teeth apart after they are perfectly aligned with braces.  For this reason, some people choose to cut away the frenum by getting a frenectomy.

Forces From Your Teeth

Other teeth (or the lack thereof) can move your teeth.  Normally when you bite together, your teeth touch and rest in a certain position.  This position is known as centric occlusion.  Normally, the top teeth oppose the bottom teeth and keep them in check.  However, when you lose a tooth, things get interesting!

When you lose a tooth, the teeth drift to fill the space. The teeth on either side of the lost tooth move, as will the tooth that opposes it. For example, if you lost a lower tooth, the tooth on the upper jaw that normally hits it would start to grow down slightly to fill in the space and the adjacent teeth to the lost tooth would start to lean in towards the empty gap.

Certain habits involving tooth-to-tooth contact, such as clenching or grinding your teeth could also cause movement of your teeth.

Another force that can move your teeth is described in Ten Cate’s Oral Histology textbook.  It talks about the back teeth pushing forward ever so slightly against each other, which causes a gradual forward movement of your teeth as you get older.


As you can see, there are many different forces that are constantly acting on your teeth that could cause them to move.  In addition to these internal forces from your own body, teeth can also move due to external forces such as braces, pipe smoking, or musical instruments.  I will discuss these forces in more detail in a future article.

Do you have any questions, comments, or concerns about tooth movement caused by these forces?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below.  Thanks for reading!