Tongue Scraping and Your Dental Hygiene Routine

There have been several bizarre oral health trends in 2017, like charcoal teeth whitening and DIY orthodontics, but nothing caught on quite like the ancient Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling. Whether it’s our societal obsession with holistic living or a desire to use up the gigantic jar of coconut oil you purchased when it was on sale at your grocery store, millions of people jumped on the oil-pulling bandwagon this year. There might be some oral health benefits to the practice, but if you’re as turned off by the idea as I am, you might want to consider the alternative, tongue scraping.

Tongue scraping is a quick, inexpensive and easy practice that boasts many benefits, according to a recent Huffington Post article. One of the most noticeable perks is its help with halitosis. That’s right, tongue scraping can drastically reduce your bad breath. As the author of the article so eloquently put it, “So you brush your teeth, you floss your gums, but that big plush carpet that sits on the bottom of your mouth gets ignored. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?” No. No it does not. Your tongue is the perfect environment for bad breath (and cavity) causing bacteria, so scraping it just makes sense.

Besides bad breath, there are a host of other negative effects a “dirty” tongue can have. For one, your taste buds won’t be fully up for enjoying your delicious dinner if they’re covered in gunk. Also, a clean, healthy tongue will help your mouth produce more saliva, which is the first step in digesting your food and helps keep your teeth clean. Speaking of clean…the more soft plaque you have on your tongue, the more hard plaque will be found on your teeth, and it’s that hard stuff that is to blame for tooth decay. Once again, tongue scraping can help keep your teeth healthy too! Did you know that your oral health is closely connected to your overall health? According to the Mayo Clinic, oral bacteria and poor oral hygiene are linked to several other diseases, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even infertility. Tongue scraping obviously has many health benefits.

For those who are thinking to themselves, “I do clean my tongue, just with my toothbrush,” I’m going to reply with a “Not quite.” According to Kim Shamoun, a veteran registered dental hygienist, “an ordinary toothbrush is not recommended; it doesn’t remove the microorganisms from the tongue properly.” The malleable surface of your toothbrush is perfect for cleaning the hard surface of your teeth, and a solid surface, like a stainless steel tongue scraper) is perfect to clean the squishy surface of your tongue.

Ideally, you want to clean your tongue as soon as you wake up in the morning, before you’ve eaten or drank anything, or brushed your teeth. Simply stick your tongue out, and starting from the back, glide the scraper over your entire tongue. Be sure to rinse your scraper after each run, completing at least five scrapes.

“The most posterior portion of the tongue collects the most buildup, so you really have to make sure you reach far back. The frequency should be a regular basis, morning and evening,” advises Shamoun.

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