What is a tongue scraper? Does it really work?

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Did you know that cleaning your tongue is an essential part of your oral health? And the best way to achieve a cleaner mouth is to use a tongue scraper! We can say that tongue cleaners are ancient tools that have been used for centuries. A tongue scraper is an oral hygiene tool used to clean the surface of the tongue. You can easily learn how to use this ancient practice, and according to many different studies, it works efficiently. It helps you glide away the food particles from your tongue’s surface.

Here you will find all the information about tongue scrapers. The way tongue scraper works, the benefits of scraping, and its risks are all explained.

What is a tongue scraper?

You brushed your teeth, flossed and it’s done! Isn’t it? Actually, you have one more thing you might consider adding to your oral hygiene routine. Tongue scraping!  A tongue scraper is one of the most practical oral hygiene tools to clean your tongue and maintain oral care. You might be asking, what does a tongue scraper do?

It is a basic solution to keep your tongue clean. When you use a tongue scraper, it cleans away the harmful bacteria and food debris from the entire surface of your tongue. That way, it gives you better oral hygiene, improves your sense of taste, and solves bad breath problems.

Tongue scraping will improve general oral health, though it cannot be a replacement for brushing your teeth. Brush twice, floss once, and scrape your tongue for a healthy mouth!

Now that you learned what is a tongue scraper, it is time to see what it cleans on your tongue.

Are tongue scrapers worth it: Does it really do anything?

Yes, it does. You can use it to improve your tongue’s appearance, against bad breath, and as preventative care. Tongue scraping cleans the bacteria, food particles, and dead cells from your tongue’s surface. When your tongue surface is covered with all this stuff, scraping is the best solution to remove them.

As to what part of your tongue is cleaned on a smaller scale, it is papilla. These are tiny buttons on your tongue, and you can see them if you look closely. Your taste buds are also found between papilla. All the stuff making your tongue smell and look bad hides around and on these papilla buttons. Cleaning your tongue with a scraper will get these hidden bacteria out.

In this matter, “how much bacteria does a tongue scraper take off?” is a common question. The effectiveness of tongue scrapers in removing bacteria and improving oral hygiene has been the subject of some studies. These studies have demonstrated that using a tongue scraper can notably decrease the presence of bacteria on the tongue compared to not using one. However, the exact amount of bacteria removed may vary based on factors such as personal oral hygiene routines and the kind of bacteria present.

So, we answered your question “what does a tongue scraper do”, now let’s see how you can benefit from it.

What are the pros and cons of a tongue scraper? 

Like every other product, the tongue scraper comes with pros and cons. The benefits of a tongue scraper are various. Generally, people wonder “will a tongue scraper help oral health?”. Others also wonder if they can use it to improve taste buds, reduce bacteria or prevent gum diseases. How about the digestive benefits of scraping? Are they true?

Let’s see the pros of using a tongue scraper:

  • Fresher breath: Your mouth is full of bacteria that can cause your breath to smell bad. One of the breath-making particles in your mouth is a sulfuric compound. In a study made with people who are suffering from bad breath because of this sulfuric compound, tongue scraping was found 75% effective in reducing the breath-making bacteria. (1)
  • Enhanced taste buds: When you clean your tongue, you may be able to enhance your sense of taste. You taste the food with the help of your taste buds over your tongue. When your taste buds are stuck or coated with particles, your tasting ability is reduced. The tongue scraper cleans the stuff that clogs your taste buds, giving you a better tasting experience.
  • Better tongue appearance: Yes, you can improve the way your tongue looks with a scraper. After each usage, the tongue scraper clears away the bacteria on your tongue causing discoloration. That way you can easily get rid of white, brown, or yellow color on your tongue. However, just to let you know, not every staining on your food can be cleaned with scraping.
    If the color does not improve even after using the scraper, you better see your dentist. The white spots and redness on the other hand might indicate something different that you should not interfere with, and ask for professional help.
  • Fewer bacteria in your mouth: It decreases the general bacteria amount. There are lots of bacteria living in your mouth and most of them also visit your tongue, sometimes getting stuck in there. By using a tongue scraper in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth, you can reduce the bacteria amount in your mouth.
  • Risk of infection: The build-up of bacteria and debris on the tongue can lead to oral infections, but regular use of a tongue scraper can help reduce the risk of infection.

Now, it’s time to see the potential drawbacks of using a tongue scraper:

  • Risk of injury: Incorrect use of a tongue scraper can cause cuts or soreness on the tongue.
  • Irritation and damage: Over-scraping the tongue or using a scraper that is too rough can lead to irritation or damage to the tongue.
  • Inadequate results: The effectiveness of a tongue scraper can vary based on individual factors such as oral hygiene habits and the type of bacteria present in the mouth, leading to inconsistent results.
  • Discomfort: Some people may find the sensation of using a tongue scraper uncomfortable or unpleasant.
  • Cost: Tongue scrapers can range in price and may be more expensive than other oral hygiene tools.

In conclusion, using a tongue scraper can have several benefits for oral hygiene, but it’s important to use it correctly and consider individual factors such as oral hygiene habits and the type of bacteria present.

Are there any risks of using a tongue scraper?

A tongue scraper is not a dangerous dental tool and is a safe practice for cleaning your tongue. Though, it is not a risk-free tool that there are some points you should consider before and while using it.

  • Rough edges: Especially if you are using the metal bar version, you would like to be careful about the pressure you put on your tongue. The rough or uneven edges of the scraper might harm your tongue causing bleeding. Make sure you are applying it with light pressure first.
  • Gag reflex: This is the most common side effect of using it. People with extremely sensitive to gag reflexes might find it disturbing while scraping and might vomit after using it.
  • It gets dirty after a while: Make sure you change your plastic scraper after 3-4 months of usage or it might worsen the bacteria in your tongue. Rinse it with hot water and soap. Keep it in a dry place and repeat these steps after each use.
  • Care for tongue diseases: If you have any scars, bacterial infections, or yellow/black-looking anomalies on your tongue, it is best to get professional help first and not rely on the tongue scraper to take care of it.

Who should use a tongue scraper?

Tongue scraping is a healthy habit for everyone, and everyone can benefit from it. Although some people might find it more beneficial.

  • People with stained tongues: Smoking, chewing tobacco gum, and drinking coffee or tea might stain your tongue in the long term. If you want to get rid of the yellow or brownly colored tongue, scraping will help you.
  • People with cavities: In your mouth, there is a living fauna that produces bacteria every day. You can get rid of most of these bacteria by brushing your teeth. But if you tend to produce cavities despite consistent brushing and flossing, adding the tongue scraper to your oral hygiene routine might help you a lot and can improve your general dental health.
  • People who like to reduce plaque formation: People who are at higher risk of developing plaque may benefit from tongue scraping. In a study made to evaluate tongue scraping and plaque formation relation, daily tongue scraping was found hugely beneficial, especially for children around the age of 11 who are more prone to plaque buildup (3)


(1) Lee CH, Kho HS, Chung SC, Lee SW, Kim YK. The relationship between volatile sulfur compounds and major halitosis-inducing factors. J Periodontol. 2003;74(1):32-37. doi:10.1902/jop.2003.74.1.32 Link

(2) Laleman I, Koop R, Teughels W, Dekeyser C, Quirynen M. Influence of tongue brushing and scraping on the oral microflora of periodontitis patients. J Periodontal Res. 2018;53(1):73-79. doi:10.1111/jre.12489 Link

(3) Winnier JJ, Rupesh S, Nayak UA, Reddy V, Prasad Rao A. The comparative evaluation of the effects of tongue cleaning on existing plaque levels in children. Int J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2013;6(3):188-192. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10005-1216 Link

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