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The Why, When, How and Where of Tongue Scraping

04 May 2019

 

Imagine it’s still winter … you’re standing at the door, ready to brave the cold. You’re layered-up
with three shirts and a sweatshirt, your heavy winter coat, and two layers of socks underneath
your waterproof winter boots. Then you’ve got those awesome jeans with the flannel on the
inside, your comfy hat, scarf, and gloves. You’re set! But wait. As you step toward the door, you
suddenly realize you have an itch … and it’s deep down … buried beneath all those layers. And,
try as you may, every attempt to reach that bugger-of-an-itch fails. Defeated, you realize the
only relief you’re ever gonna’ get is to remove each one of those layers. Where are we going
with this?!

The Tongue
We’re going inside your mouth, of course, to your tongue – this is a dental article, after all!
Because whether you know it or not, like you in the wintertime, your tongue is also “all covered
up” – buried beneath layers of bacteria, fungi, and food residue that can inhibit your ability to
taste, let alone cause your tongue to appear various shades of yellow, white, or green! Remove
the bacteria, though, and your food will once again directly interact with those taste buds, and
return to its natural hue. So how does one do that? With a tongue scraper, of course!

WHAT is a tongue scraper?
A tongue scraper is a U-shaped device designed to “scrape” the top layer of scum from your
tongue. They have been in use since ancient times, and have been made of everything from
wood to whalebone. Nowadays, they are made of more hygienic material, and come in a
variety of shapes, sizes, designs and colors.

WHY use a tongue scraper?
The residue on your tongue includes things like the cavity-inducing Streptococcus mutans
bacterium, fungi, rotting food (that’s not good), and what’s referred to as “volatile sulfur
compounds.” In other words, sulfur – that “rotting egg smell.” Talk about ew! So, as you can see,
there are several reasons why you’d want to get rid of this gunk in your mouth. Let’s tackle
them one by one:
• Reduce bad breath: ‘nuff said! [Have you ever had a patient with a bad case of halitosis
who was able to get their breath smelling fresh again just by using a scraper? Here’s a great
place to share that story!]
• Reduce your risk of periodontal disease and cavities: Bad bacteria contribute to plaque
and tartar on teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities. Bacteria build-up can also lead
to inflammation of gum tissue (gingivitis). If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal
disease, which means a more expensive dental visit (plus other unwanted consequences!).
Speaking of avoiding an expensive dental visit, when was the last time you came in to see us?
Come see us now if it’s been awhile, by calling in at [Enter your practice phone number here].
• Make room for good bacteria: see our article here on probiotics for your mouth.
• Prevent heart disease? While the debate is still up in the air, some studies suggest there
could be a correlation between gum disease and heart disease.

HOW does one use a tongue scraper?
In general, make sure to rinse your tongue scraper before and after use. Apply the tongue
scraper to the back of your tongue and drag it forward. Then, rinse and repeat. Make sure to
get the sides of your tongue as well, not just the center!
Make sure not to press too hard or you can cause yourself to bleed. And, if you’re wondering if
you should scrape your tongue while recovering from a dental procedure, that’s a good
question … ask your dentist for the best advice particular to your situation. Still not sure how
this thing really works? The next time you’re in ask [Enter Dr. or hygienist’s name here] for a
quick tutorial!

WHERE do I buy one?
Your first choice is, believe it or not, your dentist. [If you sell, or offer scrapers for free, then
simply replace the words “your dentist” in the prior sentence with “us!”] They may even have a
sample they could provide to you at no cost. [If you can supply these to a patient, you won’t
need this prior sentence.] Tongue scrapers are relatively inexpensive, and can also be found at
any local drugstore. It doesn’t matter the material, color, or brand – just find the one you like
and get scraping!