You already oil pull with coconut oil, dry brush, practice mindfulness, and then some, but there’s another wellness ritual that may be missing from your daily routine: tongue scraping.
Originating in India in Ayurvedic medicine, tongue scraping aids in clearing away bacteria, food debris, toxins, and fungus from the tongue. Using a tongue scraper is also thought to enhance sense of taste, boost immunity, and promote oral and digestive health, too.
Here’s why you need a tongue scraper in your bathroom vanity, ASAP.
The Health Benefits of Using a Tongue Scraper
Using a tongue scraper is an easy way to reduce bad breath and halitosis, AKA chronic bad breath. According to a 2002 report, around 85-90 percent of halitosis can be attributed to metabolic outputs of naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth, which are commonly found on the back of the tongue.
“Scraping the tongue daily removes any build-up on the tongue, which, if left untreated, can lead to bad breath and may house a significant number of bacteria” says Sheila Patel, M.D., medical director of the Chopra Center.
Can a tongue scraper really remove odor-causing bacteria? A 2004 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry found that using a tongue scraper daily significantly removed the amount of anaerobic bacteria from the tongue associated with bad breath.
A 2005 study found that tongue scraping twice daily for seven days had significant effect on reducing both Mutans streptococci and Lactobacilli bacteria, as well as decreasing bad breath.
Using a tongue scraper is clinically shown to reduce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are associated with halitosis, according to this 2004 study. The tongue scraper showed a 75 percent reduction in VSCs, while a toothbrush only showed a 45 percent reduction.
Along with removing odor-causing bacteria from the tongue, tongue scraping may even improve the taste and sensation of food. “By removing this coating you improve your ability to taste your food, which makes it more satisfying” Patel says.
“By increasing your taste reception, not only do you eat less, you also eliminate the need to add more sugar, salt, or excessive spice to the food to make it more flavorful.”
In fact, a 2004 study found that two weeks of tongue scraping greatly reduced tongue coating, while significantly improving taste sensation of bitter, sweet, salty, and sour tastes in participants.
What Kind of Tongue Scraper to Use
According to one of the Ayurvedic texts, the Charaka Samhita, tongue scrapers should be made of gold, silver, copper, tin, or brass.
Copper, which has been used for centuries as a bacteria-resistant metal, is one of the more popular tongue scraper choices. A 2012 study shows that copper is both toxic to bad bacteria and is necessary for specific microbial enzymes in the mouth.
Another option, a stainless steel tongue scraper is considered to be balancing for all Ayurvedic constitutions (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) and imbalances.
How to Use a Tongue Scraper
Ayurvedic practitioners recommend tongue scraping every morning on an empty stomach.
To tongue scrape, gently hold the ends of the scraper in both hands and place it far back on the surface of the tongue as comfortable.
“The tongue should be gently scraped from back to front for 7 to 14 strokes,” Patel notes. If there is a lot of accumulation on the scraper, rinse it off in between strokes.
“Some people report stimulation of the gag reflex during scraping, which may indicate that the scraping is too aggressive. If this occurs with gentle scraping, begin slightly more forward on the tongue to avoid the gagging reflex” Patel says.
Finish tongue scraping with brushing, flossing, optional oil pulling, and a large glass of water, and prepare to feel fresh.
Where Can You Find a Tongue Scraper
Look for tongue scrapers online at retailers like Amazon or at natural grocery stores, like Whole Foods Market.
My favorite tongue scraper is from Banyan Botanicals who makes a stainless steel tongue cleaner that's made to last. Other great options are The Dirt copper tongue scraper from Urban Outfitters and this copper tongue scraper from I Love Herbal.
Now, go get your scrape on.