Tongue scraper vs mouthwash: The yin and yang of oral hygiene

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One of the most important steps of oral hygiene routines is cleansing the tongue. And when it comes to tongue cleaning, we come across this inevitable comparison: tongue scraper vs mouthwash. Not taking care of your tongue can be a threat to your both oral and general health. It can cause halitosis (bad breath), bad taste, and infections and it even can create a more favorable environment for the development of tooth decay and periodontal diseases like gum disease. 

The tongue surface is covered with hundreds of taste buds, called papillae, making it easy for particles to build up. Fortunately, there are these two products for cleaning our tongues that are very accessible. They help you in many ways, from the treatment of halitosis to the prevention of dental caries. However, knowing which one is better for you and which one to choose can be a bit of a challenge. Especially while both are quite accessible. So our aim in this article is to go into detail to compare two products and help you find which one is best for you.

Let the battle of tongue scraper vs mouthwash begin!

What are the differences between tongue scraper vs mouthwash?

In fact, these two differ from each other on two main issues: how to use them and their lifetime. Other features also vary depending on these two. The bacteria, food debris, dead cells, and similar things accumulated on the tongue must be cleanedIf you don’t clean these bad buddies, you may experience what is called a coated tongue

The tongue scraper is an oral care method that works purely mechanically. You place your tongue in the space in the middle and pull the scraper by pressing it against your tongue. This tongue-scraping process is repeated several times.

Mouthwashes also have effects such as preventing dental caries and plaque buildup and refreshing your breath with aromas but tongue scraping doesn’t have such properties. Also, their lifetimes are incomparably different. So we can say that finding which one is best, depends on your priorities.

Which one is better for your tongue?

It is difficult to say something valid for everyone on this subject. Both are quite effective oral hygiene methods. But, if you press too hard on your tongue, scrapers can cause minor injuries. So, it is better to be gentle while using it.

Mouthwashes are liquids that destroy bacteria and clean the whole mouth, not only the tongue’s surface. The ones that contain chemical agents are called therapeutic mouthwashes. 

The chemical agents contained in mouthwashes destroy bacteria indiscriminately. But there are beneficial bacteria and bad bacteria. Some of them inhibit the growth of certain other bad bacteria. When they disappear, the bacterial balance in our mouth is disrupted. Disruption of this balance will invite opportunistic infections. These can be microbial infections or even fungal infections. Your oral microbiome is a really important part of your body’s defense mechanisms, and overuse of mouthwash will disrupt that. This can create highly negative effects on your tongue as well as other mouth tissues.

We also know that some mouthwashes contain high amounts of alcohol. High alcohol exposure creates dry mouth problems. You may be using these products for avoiding bad breath but dry mouth is also one of the major causes of bad breath. It’s basically jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Plus, there are some scientific pieces of evidence linking the regular exposure of oral tissue to alcohol, to oral cancer. Although it is controversial to say that alcohol directly causes cancer, it can be said that it seriously increases the risk of cancer. Since tongue scrapers provide a mechanical cleaning, you will not encounter a such problem. (1)

Contrary, you don’t have to expect such negative effects while using tongue scrapers. However, tongue scrapers also have a red flag. They may cause a gag reflex

Which one is easier to use?

Since tongue scrapers are tools that you use by pressing your tongue, they can cause a gag reflex in some people. So they can be difficult to use for sensitive people. Also, as we said, they can cause minor injuries if you don’t use them gently. Plus, another thing you need to be careful about with scrapers is their cleanliness. You should also clean the scrapers after each use. Otherwise, they can be quite hygienic and become harmful to the body.

Mouthwashes, on the other side, can also cause some discomfort. Some people may find it hard to keep the liquid in their mouth because of their high alcohol content or its excessive foaming while gargling.

Which one is more affordable?

When it comes to price performance, we encounter different parameters. For both products, there is a serious product variety with different qualities and different features. You can find mouthwashes for $3 to $23. Likewise, you can buy simple tongue scrapers for one dollar or a multipart tongue cleaners equipment kit for around $20.

The point to be underlined here is the usage patterns of these two tongue cleaners. Mouthwash is a product that decreases as you use it. At the same time, tongue scrapers have a much longer service life as we said before. If you use them properly, there are even copper tongue scrapers that you can literally use until you die. 

What happens if I use both a tongue scraper and a mouthwash?

It’s okay to use both, as long as you don’t set up a cleaning routine that is frequent and intense enough to destroy your microbiome. If you are a smoker and smoked more than you normally do, or if you consumed lots of sugar in a day, you can use both of them. In this way, it will be easier for you to get rid of bad breath and have fresher breath. But of course, don’t forget that using both a tongue scraper and a mouthwash should be an exceptional situation.

In fact, it would be better to use a scraper first than a mouthwash. So you clean the entire surface from the buildup of debris and bacteria on it and the mouthwash cleans it better. Voila, a fresher breath and better tasting!


(1) Ustrell-Borràs M, Traboulsi-Garet B, Gay-Escoda C. Alcohol-based mouthwash as a risk factor of oral cancer: A systematic review. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2020 Jan 1;25(1):e1-e12. doi: 10.4317/medoral.23085. PMID: 31655832; PMCID: PMC6982979. Link

Pedrazzi V, Sato S, de Mattos Mda G, Lara EH, Panzeri H. Tongue-cleaning methods: a comparative clinical trial employing a toothbrush and a tongue scraper. J Periodontol. 2004 Jul;75(7):1009-12. doi: 10.1902/jop.2004.75.7.1009. PMID: 15341360.

Matsui M, Chosa N, Shimoyama Y, Minami K, Kimura S, Kishi M. Effects of tongue cleaning on bacterial flora in tongue coating and dental plaque: a crossover study. BMC Oral Health. 2014 Jan 14;14:4. doi: 10.1186/1472-6831-14-4. PMID: 24423407; PMCID: PMC3898367.

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