Is a Tongue Scraper Bad for You?

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber S, MD
Medically Reviewed on 6/27/2022

What is a tongue scraper?

A tongue scraper is a tool that is usually made from copper, stainless steel, or plastic and it helps to keep the tongue clean. Tongue scraping is safe and it may be beneficial.
A tongue scraper is a tool that is usually made from copper, stainless steel, or plastic and it helps to keep the tongue clean. Tongue scraping is safe and it may be beneficial.

Our tongues are usually out of sight, out of mind. It is a fleshy set of muscles that serve various functions like helping to chew, swallow, and speak. The little bumps or papillae cover the tongue to allow you to feel the texture and taste of items put into your mouth.

Anytime you open your mouth, the potential for foreign material to enter is abundant. The tongue starts to grow a buildup fueled by bacteria. Even if you are immaculate at maintaining oral hygiene, you may miss some areas on the surface of your tongue. 

Tongue scraping is the use of a tool to remove debris from the tongue, but is it bad to scrape your tongue? The jury is still out, but overall, tongue scraping provides a variety of benefits.

A tongue scraping device is usually made from copper, stainless steel, or plastic. It is usually easy to find in a drug store and is relatively inexpensive. It comes in a variety of sizes and shapes.

A tongue scraper is a tool that helps to keep the tongue clean. It works by starting at the back of your tongue and pulling it forward. Many people choose to brush their tongues with a toothbrush as well. Brushing your tongue from the back to the front with a toothbrush is an easy step leading up to tongue scraping. 

You are brushing twice daily anyway, so the addition of a tongue scraper is important to keep bacteria, dead cells, and food debris from building up there, leading to problems. 

How do you use a tongue scraper?

Using a scraper is easy enough to add to your daily routine. Brush, floss, and rinse as normal. You must stick out the tongue and apply pressure to scrape the surface, starting from the back. This should not hurt, and if it does use less pressure. 

The basic steps of tongue scraping are:

  • Get in front of a mirror, and stick out your tongue as far as possible comfortably.
  • Place the curved end of your tongue scraper as far toward the back of your tongue as you can.
  • Touch the back of your tongue with the scraper, pull it slowly forward, and do not move it backward,
  • After each swipe from back to front, use a cloth or water to clean the scraper.
  • Keep repeating until the entire tongue is done.
  • Maintain your scraper by cleaning it with soap and water, drying it, and storing it in a dry, clean area.

Is a tongue scraper safe?

Studies do suggest that scraping your tongue removes more bacteria and improves breath more than brushing alone. It should not hurt or damage your tongue. If it does hurt, less pressure should be used. There is no evidence however that brushing or tongue scraping will prevent bad breath or halitosis. The bacteria that causes you to have bad breath can come back right after you remove it.

Studies are still showing more benefits to tongue scraping, and some are still inconclusive. But, they do speak of associated risks with use. Usually, there are no risks involved. Pain experienced while scraping is not normal. 

You should stop scraping if you experience pain and see your dentist when you can. Your tongue scraper could possibly have a jagged edge from use or manufacturing defect. Another possible problem is a preexisting condition causing tongue sensitivity. Besides this, tongue scraping is safe, and you could be a person who finds it beneficial.

Benefits of scraping the tongue 

Fresh breath: Odor causing bacteria resides on your tongue in addition to your gums and teeth. Tongue scraping gets rid of a majority of these bacteria. 

Removes harmful bacteria: It has been discovered that using a tongue scraper two times daily for a week gets rid of two types of oral bacteria linked to dental decay and bad breath. These are Mutans streptococci and various Lactobacilli.  

Improved taste: Scraping the surface of your tongue makes it a fresh new palette. Your food will taste stronger because of the removal of layers of debris. 

Improved tongue appearance: Your tongue can appear white or yellow from debris buildup. When you scrape this away, it helps to prevent the continual discolored build-up. 

Overall health improvement: Oral hygiene care is important for total well-being. Scraping the tongue removes bacteria that cause cavities and inflames the gums. Ignored oral hygiene can lead to heart problems, cancer, and other medical illnesses. 

Does tongue scraping override basic hygiene?

Brushing the teeth and flossing twice a day is a necessity for good oral hygiene. The use of the tongue scraper helps to remove additional dead cells, debris, and bacteria that build up that the brushing cannot get. However, it is to be used in addition to good oral habits.

One falsified fact about tongue scraping is that it cures halitosis. It can remove almost all of the associated bad-smelling bacteria, but as soon as you eat or drink, it can start to build up again. It provides temporary relief, but constant use can create long-term effects. If used after every meal, you can get ahead of the process. 

Another myth is that brushing the tongue gives as good of benefits as using a scraper. This is not the case. Using a tongue scraper removes 30% more sulfur compounds than using a soft toothbrush. Sulfur gives off the smell of rotten eggs.

A rare complication

A medical journal documented a patient that obtained heart issues from scraping her tongue. A 59-year-old woman had a history of mitral valve prolapse. The patient had symptoms including headache, sweats, fever, and malaise for ten days. She had recently begun tongue scraping with a plastic scraper two months before. The patient had endocarditis caused by bacteremia from tongue scraping. An abnormal heart valve was the predisposing factor. 

The connection between the germs of the mouth and endocarditis has long been medically noted. 

Medically Reviewed on 6/27/2022

American Dental Association: "Tongue Scrapers and Cleaners."

Central Park Dentistry: "Tongue Scraping: Should You Do It?"

Cleveland Clinic: "Does Tongue Scraping Actually Work, and Should I Be Doing It?"

Emerging Infectious Diseases: "Endocarditis after Use of Tongue Scraper."

Trident Dental: "Does Tongue Scraping Actually Work, and Should I Be Doing It?"