Tongue scraper not working? Here’s why and what to do

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Tongue cleaning is a blessing when it comes to removing bad breath bacteria and keeping fresh breath. Besides these, it keeps the mouth healthy and helps you maintain your dental health. But if you often find yourself saying, “Even after using a tongue scraper, my breath still smells bad,” “Is my tongue scraper not working?” Or if you have a white tongue despite using a scraper, it’s quite possible that your tongue scraping isn’t working for you. 

Why is my tongue scraper not working?

So why isn’t your tongue scraper working? As you know, each oral health tool has its own use and specific applications. And if you ignore them, as a result, they can’t do what they’re supposed to do. In this case, a tongue scraper that is supposed to clean your tongue properly is not working. The things you may be ignoring include improper technique, inaccurate oral care routine, incorrect storage, or other health problems. You may not enjoy the benefits of tongue scraping fully because of these factors. When you understand what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it, you will have a clean tongue and fresh breath. If your tongue has a pink color, it is a sign that it’s healthy. So keep checking it regularly.

Improper technique

One of the biggest reasons why your tongue scraper won’t work may be that you have the wrong technique. If you don’t scrape the properly, food debris will remain on your tongue. This means paradise for anaerobic bacteria. Because this type of harmful bacteria doesn’t need oxygen for living. They feed on food particles and release sulfur which can cause bad breath.

Make sure your technique is correct to get rid of those nasty bacteria. Let us tell you, it won’t do much if you’re just rubbing the tool around without paying too much attention. For the right technique, you need to pay attention. Pull the scraper along the surface with gentle pressure towards the tip of the tongue, straight instead of in circular motions. Make sure to clean the entire tongue surface so that it’s clean and pinkish in appearance.

Also, if you already have open wounds on your tongue, you may think that cleaning will do you good. But it’s actually the opposite of that. If your tongue is injured or damaged, it is best to stop scraping for a few days. Otherwise, if there is an infection, it will spread and the situation will worsen.

Inaccurate oral care routine

A proper oral care routine is very important in maintaining your oral health. After all, our teeth will stay with us throughout our lives. Also, poor oral health can cause further serious health issues, so it’s important to take care of them. One of the indications that you don’t have the right dental routine will be your tongue scraper not working.

Let’s say you just brush your teeth or focus on tongue cleaning. Or you just use dental floss. In other words, while you should combine these steps, you focused on certain points. The steps in your oral care are closely related to each other. For example, if you only brush your teeth and skip the tongue cleaning or flossing step, you may encounter problems such as white tongue or gum diseases. This is because after brushing, bacteria can actually spread to your tongue.

Use the tongue scraper after brushing and flossing to remove any bacteria hiding between the papillae. Once you’re sure you cleaned every corner, use water to rinse thoroughly. Don’t forget to wash the scraper with warm water as well. Using a clean tongue scraper can help with your oral complaints.

Also, keep in mind that using the tongue scraper too much is not a good idea. Don’t scrape too much or with heavy pressure. Doing so can injure your tongue and damage your taste buds. If you have accidentally damaged your taste buds, your sense of taste will be somewhat dulled. But don’t be afraid, you can reverse this damage by taking a break from cleaning for a few days. If the sores are serious enough to worry you, it may also be beneficial to see a dentist.

Incorrect storage

Lack of regular maintenance and improper storage of the tongue scraper is also some of the reasons why it won’t work. Bacterial accumulation occurs on the scraper tools if they are not cleaned regularly. Every time you use a dirty scraper, you actually put these bad bacteria back into your mouth. It might be the reason why tongue scraping isn’t working.

To prevent this from happening, rinse the product with warm water after each use. You can even boil it once in a while. Of course, the most important thing after cleaning is to dry the scraper and also to store it in a dry place away from your toilet.

If you leave your cleaner exposed in a wet place, bacteria growth will increase. Besides, the longer it stays in a watery place, the more likely it will rust because it’s metal. Of course, you need to clean the plastic tongue scrapers, just like the metal ones. However, unlike metal ones, plastics are recommended to be used once. That’s because they have more bacteria growth than others and are not good for your health anyway.

Other health issues

Do you think you use and store the tongue scraper correctly but it just doesn’t work? Other health conditions may be causing your problem. How can other health problems interfere with the cleaning process you might ask.

In some cases of infection, we may experience bad breath, as our lungs and throat will also be affected. Untreated tooth, gum, and tongue diseases can affect our other systems through our mouth (1). According to one study, especially periodontitis can cause serious systematic problems. In fact, our oral health is closely related to the digestive, circulatory, and upper respiratory tract systems (2).

The proper functioning of these systems ensures that our general health is also good. So one of the reasons the tongue scraper might not work is that you may actually be having a problem with those systems in your body. It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you have conditions such as oral lichen planus or geographic tongue. So you can find the source of your discomfort and learn that the problem is not actually in your scraper use.

Also, if you smoke a lot and your alcohol consumption is high, you should try to reduce them. You will quickly notice the improvement in both your general health and your oral health.


1. Babu Nc, Gomes A. Systemic manifestations of oral diseases. Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. 2011;15(2):144. doi: Link

‌2. Li X, Kolltveit KM, Tronstad L, Olsen I. Systemic diseases caused by oral infection. Clinical microbiology reviews. 2000;13(4):547-558. doi: Link

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