Tongue Scraping: Before or After Brushing?

Tongue Scraping: Before or After Brushing?

Tongue scraping: sounds somewhat intimidating, right? 

In reality, tongue scraping is a simple and effective practice that can be a beneficial step in your daily oral hygiene routine! 

While not completely essential, tongue scraping can help to improve your breath and prevent bad bacteria from accumulating on your tongue which can otherwise lead to more serious health concerns. 

While we were all taught how to brush our teeth as young children, many of us may be clueless when it comes to using a tongue scraper!

That funny-looking piece of metal or plastic may be something you’ve never encountered, and you may be wondering how to best incorporate it into your routine. 

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • What tongue scraping is
  • Whether it’s necessary
  • The benefits of tongue scraping
  • Tongue scraping vs brushing
  • Top tongue scraping tips.

Let’s get into it!

What is Tongue Scraping?

Tongue scraping is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine practice that dates back thousands of years. 

According to Ayurveda, tongue scraping removes toxins from the tongue, enhances the sense of taste, aids in digestion and gut health, and can even boost your immunity! 

Also, tongue scraping is a simple and inexpensive oral hygiene practice that can complement regular brushing and flossing. However, it's essential to perform tongue scraping gently to avoid causing irritation or damage to the delicate tissues of the tongue.

Tongue scrapers come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. 

While traditionally made from steel, copper, or silver, there are now many plastic tongue scrapers available. These are often more affordable but less durable; some are intended to be disposed of after a few uses. 

Is Tongue Scraping Necessary?

You may be familiar with a yellowish or white ‘coating’ on your tongue. This is mainly comprised of food particles, dead skin cells, and bacteria (yuck!). 

While not all of this debris is harmful, your tongue may harbor a certain degree of bad bacteria.

Some dentists agree that the residue on your tongue can include Streptococcus mutans, which contributes to plaque and tartar on the teeth and can cause cavities. 

Streptococcus mutans buildup can also lead to inflamed gums, which may cause gingivitis – or worse, periodontal disease. Tongue scraping helps to remove this coating and bacteria! 

While many individuals believe that tongue scraping improves their breath, the American Dental Association (ADA) affirms that there is no evidence that brushing or scraping your tongue will prevent or improve chronic bad breath (halitosis). 

The bacteria that causes bad breath is able to grow back very rapidly after it is removed from the tongue. 

Nevertheless, the ADA suggests that if you like the way your mouth feels after cleaning your tongue, you should keep tongue scraping in your daily dental routine. 

As such, tongue scraping comes down to personal preference but is not officially recommended as an essential oral hygiene practice.

It's important to note that tongue scraping is not a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily are fundamental components of maintaining good oral hygiene.

Colgate recommends cleaning your tongue thoroughly and regularly as part of your oral hygiene routine. 

Your mouth is home to millions of bacteria, and Colgate states that while brushing and flossing are effective at cleaning your teeth and improving overall oral health, these practices do not remove the bacteria that build up on your tongue. 

The bacteria on your tongue can create volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are a key determinant of bad breath and can lead to other health issues

Colgate suggests cleaning your tongue twice daily with either a soft-bristled toothbrush or a tongue scraper to remove the layer of debris and mucus coating your tongue.

As Colgate points out, brushing your tongue with a toothbrush may be just as effective as using a tongue scraper! 

A 2022 study investigated the efficacy of tongue scraping and tongue brushing for removing the coating that contributes to bad breath. 

The study measured two groups of people: one group cleaned their tongue with just a toothbrush, and another group cleaned using both a toothbrush and a tongue scraper. 

They found a significant reduction in bad breath and in the level of tongue coating across both groups

However, there was no difference between groups in bad breath or tongue coating. Nonetheless, this study both confirmed that cleaning your tongue is effective and that the method you use to do so is not as important!

Potential Benefits of Tongue Scraping

  • It clears bacteria, toxins, and dead cells from your tongue’s surface
  • It can prevent bad breath by removing VSCs
  • It can enhance your sense of taste by removing the layer of debris covering your taste buds
  • It can reduce toxins in your system
  • It can improve digestion - your mouth is a window to your overall digestion system and gut. Reducing the bad bacteria in your mouth ensures none of this is transferred to the gut, thus allowing your good gut bacteria to thrive which promotes healthy digestion. 
  • It reduces the risk of plaque building up, which can lead to cavities and gum disease.

Tongue Scraping vs. Brushing: What Comes First? 

Those in favor of scraping before you brush, note that when you scrape first, you can remove the remaining food particles, mucus, and residue from your tongue so that the bacteria-fighting ingredients in toothpaste can better penetrate the cracks, grooves, and pores of your tongue

This can lead to a more effective removal of bacteria from the mouth and tongue, which may reduce the risk of cavities and gingivitis. 

Dentists in favor of tongue scraping after you brush your teeth, suggest that scraping after you brush, ensures that any debris that remains after brushing is removed from your tongue and mouth. 

Brushing your teeth can dislodge bacteria, plaque, and food particles from your teeth and gums and onto your tongue. This can then be removed by tongue scraping. 

If you choose to tongue scrape after brushing, do not rinse the toothpaste from your mouth between steps!

Tongue scraping with residual toothpaste in your mouth will allow the bacteria-fighting ingredients to better penetrate your tongue's surface. 

So What Should You Do?

Ultimately, it does not matter whether you choose to scrape your tongue before or after brushing. 

It all comes down to personal preference. Experiment with both methods to find out what works best for you; you may find that your tongue feels and looks cleaner if you scrape after brushing, or you may feel that your breath is improved if you tongue scrape before brushing. 

You’ll likely see benefits from tongue scraping – particularly improvements in bad breath and mouthfeel – regardless of when you do it. 

It’s also important to figure out which method fits naturally into your routine. As long as you’re properly implementing each step of a good oral hygiene routine,  the order in which you do so is relatively unimportant! 

Tongue Scraping Tips and Tricks 

So, we’ve now cleared up that mystery – whether you choose to tongue scrape before or after brushing is not a big deal. 

And we also now know that it can be beneficial to a healthy oral hygiene routine. Now, it’s important to ensure you’re tongue scraping correctly! 

The following tips and tricks can ensure you’re gaining the most benefit from your tongue-scraping practice:

Use a Tongue Scraper Daily

For best results, use your tongue scraper daily to ensure you are consistently removing the coating of bacteria, food particles, and debris. 

Allowing this coating to build up over time will make it more difficult to eventually remove.

Rinse Your Mouth

Rinsing your mouth with water before tongue scraping will loosen any debris, and make the tongue scraper glide more easily over the surface of your tongue.

Start at the Back and Scrape Forward

Hold your tongue scraper at the back of your tongue (being careful to not trigger your gag reflex), and then gently glide it forward – scraping over the entire surface of your tongue.

Repeat Step 3 Several Times

Repeat this scraping motion 5 -10 times or until your tongue looks and feels clean. You will notice that the white or yellowish coating disappears, and your tongue appears more pinkish.

Rinse the Tongue Scraper After Each Scraping Motion

Rinse the tongue scraper with running water after each pass to remove any debris that accumulates on the tool.

Scrape the Entire Surface of the Tongue

Scrape down the tongue at slightly different angles each time to ensure you are covering the entire surface, including the sides.

Apply Gentle Pressure

Do not use force, as you could risk damaging the delicate tissues of your tongue!

Make sure you apply enough pressure to efficiently scrape off and remove the debris. Tongue Scraping should not cause discomfort.

Do It Morning or Night

It is not crucial whether you scrape your tongue in the morning or at night. You could certainly do both! 

Scraping in the morning ensures your breath is fresh as you go about your day, whereas scraping at night ensures you remove any debris that has accumulated throughout the day. 

Scraping at night may also help you to avoid morning breath!

Maintain a Consistent Tongue-Scraping Routine

For best results, be consistent with your tongue-scraping habit. 

Regular tongue scraping benefits your oral health by removing bacteria, food debris, and dead cells from your tongue. 

Consistency will ensure this unwanted material does not build up. Tongue scraping not only improves your breath but will reduce your risk of plaque buildup which can lead to more serious conditions and diseases (like cavities and gum disease). 

Choose the Right Tongue Scraper 

Select a tongue scraper that is comfortable to hold and has a smooth, rounded edge to avoid causing irritation to the tongue. 

Metal or plastic tongue scrapers are commonly available, so choose the one that suits your preference. You can also try our Rasana tongue scraper

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