Tongue scraper vs toothbrush: Who wins?

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This is the article on tongue scraper vs toothbrush battle. Which tool is more successful in eliminating bad breath?

Tongue cleaning is often overlooked when it comes to oral health. The tongue is one of the important contributors to bad breath because food particles get stuck in between the taste buds and produce bad-breath-causing bacteria. So it should be included in everyone’s oral hygiene routine at least twice a day! Otherwise, negligence can even lead to gum disease. We know that. But with what should you clean your tongue?

Let’s discuss their differences and effectiveness and determine which one is the ultimate winner.

What are the differences between a tongue scraper and a toothbrush?

A toothbrush is a tool used for oral hygiene that can clean teeth, gums, cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and the tongue. It has bristles on its head that help clean every surface of the teeth.

A tongue scraper is another oral hygiene tool that is only used to clean the tongue. There are a lot of benefits of tongue scraping, such as improving the appearance of your tongue and your sense of taste.

Naturally, a tongue scraper and a toothbrush are not the same things. You can clean your tongue with your toothbrush, but you can’t clean your teeth with a tongue scraper. Yet, a toothbrush is not as effective as a tongue scraper in cleaning your tongue. 

Here, we have listed everything we’ve discussed so far. This way, you will get a clear idea of which option is the better investment for your oral health.

Tongue scraper properties

Toothbrush properties

An oral hygiene tool designed to clean your tongue.

Another oral hygiene tool that helps clean the teeth, gum line, cheeks, and roof of the mouth.

You can only clean your tongue with it.

You can also clean your tongue with it.

Looks like an inwards scraper with a hole in it.

Looks like a stick with bristles on the head.

Better for your tongue

Good for your tongue

After getting used to it, does not trigger a gag reflex

May trigger a gag reflex because of bristles

Might be an extra expense, if you buy disposable ones

More affordable

75% effective

40% effective

Which one is better for your tongue?

According to a study, tongue scraping is 75% effective while a soft-bristled toothbrush is 40% effective in cleaning the tongue. The reason why a toothbrush is not as effective is that the bristles on it cannot remove the food debris and bacterial plaque in between the papillae (taste buds) as well as a tongue scraper can. However, people not only use a manual toothbrush. Let’s talk about tongue scraper vs electric toothbrush. Sure, an electric toothbrush can be more effective than a manual toothbrush. But still, it is not as effective as a tongue scraper.

So we talked about tongue scraper vs toothbrush. But there is another thing. Dating back to 2008 or before, some manufacturers have designed tongue scrapers on the back of their toothbrushes’ heads. With that knowledge, let’s see which one is better: toothbrush tongue cleaner vs tongue scraper? Another study has compared the effectiveness of toothbrushes with the tongue scraper on the back of their heads and tongue scrapers. As a result, they found that they were both equally effective in getting rid of breath odor and harmful bacteria buildup on the tongue.

Long story short, in the matter of cleaning your tongue and getting rid of bad breath, a tongue scraper is better for the job, therefore wins the fight of “tongue scraper vs toothbrush”.

Which one is easier to use?

While cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush, you need to hold it horizontally on your tongue and stroke it from back to forth. Getting the entire tongue with a toothbrush can be a bit of a challenge. Some people who have a gag reflex can gag while using a toothbrush to clean their tongues. This may result in them feeling a bit nauseous for a very short time. But still, it can be very uncomfortable. And that may discourage people from cleaning their tongues.

While cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper, you also need to go as far back as possible for you and scrape from there to the front. When you get used to using the tongue scraper, you can actually clean your entire tongue in a single stroke with the scraper. But, you might still want to do it 1 or 2 more times to make sure you get everything.

In research done on this matter, the tongue scraper has no reports of triggering a gag reflex. Because of its design, it is easier and more convenient to use to clean the tongue than a toothbrush. However, some people still might gag using a scraper. And those people usually have only started using a scraper. If you are also experiencing this, take your time. Start scraping the front of your tongue. Day by day, start scraping further back. Eventually, you will be able to scrape your entire tongue. You’ll get used to it, and the gag reflex should no longer be an issue.

Which one is more affordable?

A toothbrush is more affordable because you don’t need to buy another tool for your tongue, and you use a toothbrush to clean your tongue. Tongue scrapers are separate tools for your tongue. This may be an inconvenience, but it’s worth it.

Of course, the types of tongue scrapers and the material of the scraper can determine its price. For instance, metal tongue scraper, plastic tongue scraper, copper or stainless steel tongue scraper… Some of these you may need to replace in order to keep your tools sanitary, and they can be an extra expense. But, you can use a copper scraper or a stainless steel tongue scraper forever. You only need to clean them properly after each use. Clean your stainless steel tongue scraper with warm water and soap. As for your copper tongue scraper, there are a few methods:

  • You can use lemons to clean your copper scraper. Cut one in half and rub it on the scraper. You can also use salt for extra care. After that, rinse and dry.
  • In another method, you will use 3/4 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of salt (you can use less of both of them, just make sure you remove them accordingly to their amounts). Boil them and put them in a bowl. Put your scraper in it for 15 minutes. Using a cloth, remove any remaining residue. After that, rinse and dry.

If you do not wish to purchase a tongue scraper, stainless steel or not, there are also toothbrushes with the tongue scraper on the back of their heads. This way, you can actually have both just for the price of a toothbrush.

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

If you use them both at the same time, your tongue takes a screenshot to savor the moment. And you’ll get 115% effectiveness! Just kidding, obviously.

If you use both a tongue scraper and a toothbrush, you can get more of the bacterial plaque out of your tongue, compared to using one of them or the other. It is not a necessity. It is a personal preference. Because this would mean spending extra time taking care of your oral health. You might not have the time, or you might just not want to spend that extra time on this. Totally understandable. As long as you are not neglecting your tongue hygiene, you can do whichever you like. 


Pedrazzi V, Sato S, de Mattos M da GC, Lara EHG, Panzeri H. Tongue-Cleaning Methods: A Comparative Clinical Trial Employing a Toothbrush and a Tongue Scraper. Journal of Periodontology. 2004;75(7):1009-1012. doi:10.1902/jop.2004.75.7.1009 Link

Casemiro LA, Martins CHG, Carvalho TC de, Panzeri H, Lavrador MAS, Pires-de-Souza F de CP. Effectiveness of a new toothbrush design versus a conventional tongue scraper in improving breath odor and reducing tongue microbiota. Journal of Applied Oral Science. 2008;16(4):271-274. doi:10.1590/s1678-77572008000400008

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