By Catey Hill, MarketWatch
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You’ve got a dirty mouth.
Indeed, in that steaming hot, saliva-drenched mouth of yours, trillions of bacteria are swimming around. “In one mouth, the number of bacteria can easily exceed the number of people who live on Earth,” Sigmund Socransky, a professor of periodontology, told the Harvard Gazette . And plenty of them cause bad breath and other icky issues.
One solution, at least according to a devoted group of users, some studies and a number of medical professionals: Tongue scraping, in which you repeatedly rake a small curved device called a tongue scraper — typically made of plastic, stainless steel or copper — over your tongue to remove buildup. ( This roughly $4 tongue scraper is one of the best-reviewed, best-selling on Amazon with nearly 3,000 reviews and 4.5 stars. See below for doctor recommended tongue scrapers. )
What do research and experts say about the efficacy of tongue scraping? A 2004 study found it more effective than brushing your tongue, a 2005 study found that it significantly reduced certain kinds of bacteria, and the Mayo Clinic recently declared it temporarily effective for bad breath.
“Tongue scraping is a fast way to remove extra particles — including the ones that cause bad breath — from the surface of your tongue,” concludes New York-based dentist Dr. Lana Rozenberg of Rozenberg Dental . “Although cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush is better than not cleaning it at all, using a tongue scraper is more effective.”
- Doctors we asked recommended these tongue scrapers:
- Pureline Oralcare tongue scrapers, says Rozenberg. They retail on Amazon for about $12 for a set of 3 on Amazon and score 4.6 stars with hundreds of reviews .
- Wowe tongue scrapers, says Rozenberg. They retail for $12 for a two-pack and also get 4.6 stars with hundreds of reviews.
- DenTek tongue cleaners, says dentist Dr. Katrina Wall. They for about $11 for a pack of 4.
Though the brand itself may not matter: “Most of them work — as long as they’re not collecting dust on your bathroom countertop. They do not have to be expensive or have fancy bristles on them,” says orthodontist Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling of Jacquie Smiles .
What do users say about tongue scraping? Thousands of social media posts have been devoted to tongue scraping with plenty of people swearing it’s amazing. Verified users on Amazon say as much too, writing everything from “the stuff that came off my tongue. I did not think this was possible! … It’s the best thing you’ll do for your taste buds” to “this item works amazingly. I was a little skeptical at first, but now I cannot go without it. It really helps with bad breath.” Another one raves about how it whisked the white from her tongue to reveal “a nice pink” and another about how “after using it your mouth feels so much cleaner.”
How do you use a tongue scraper exactly? “When starting out, a mirror is helpful,” says Wall of Essex Dentis t. Then, “place the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue and gently and repeatedly bring it forward along the tongue,” says dentist Dr. Alberto Bordonaba of Diamond Braces . Be sure that “after each scrape, use a washcloth or tissue to remove debris from the scraper,” says Rozenberg. She recommends that you should “at a minimum, scrape your tongue when you brush your teeth. This will help prevent long-term buildup that’s associated with severe bad breath.”
Are there any cons to tongue scrapers? Yes. “Pressing too hard or doing it too fast can trigger gag reflex or even hurt your tongue,” says Bordonaba. “To avoid it just place the tongue scraper further forward and do not press too hard against your tongue.” Rozenberg also notes that to prevent cuts to your tongue you should “make sure your tongue scraper doesn’t have any uneven or rough edges. You should inspect your scraper before every use to ensure that it’s still safe to use.”