We have talked before about the benefits of using a tongue scraper.
Now I’d like to take the time to explain exactly how to use one properly to clean your tongue.
Tongue scraping is the practice of scraping away any layer of bacteria and plaque that has built up on your tongue.
Left unchecked this layer could lead to:
- Bad breath
- A not so nice to look at white coating on your tongue
- Accelerated tooth and gum disease as the bacteria spreads to the rest of your mouth
As you can see there’s a lot to gain from such a simple practice!
To actually clean your tongue with a tongue scraper all you do is:
- Grip the scraper both handles in one or both hands
- Reach the scraper to the back of your tongue
- Gently scrape it toward the front of your tongue
- Rinse off any of the residue from the scraper
- Repeat four to five times
You would normally want to do this whenever you brush your teeth, so ideally…
…twice a day.
You should also make sure to do this before using your mouthwash as once you’ve cleared away the top layer you will have exposed the “breeding grounds” of the bacteria.
That being said, although tongue scraping is a good practice to get into…
…there are a few things you should be aware of before starting.
You should definitely use a tongue scraper, but its a case of “A little goes a long way”…
1. Overuse can cause damage to taste buds
If you scroll up to where I outlined how to use a tongue scraper, you will see that I put the word
“Gently” in bold.
This point is the reason for that.
Your taste buds are little buds of tissue connected to a rich supply of nerves.
They are what gives your tongue its rough, carpet like texture that makes it so awkward to clean!
As you can imagine they are what give you your sense of taste, which I would think is something you want to hold on to…
So don’t use your tongue scraper like a lawn mower in your mouth…
…be firm, but gentle when scraping your tongue.
There is a middle ground here. You will know you’re doing it right when you see the results.
In the first few days it is normal for your tongue to bleed a little…
…but ease up if this goes on any longer than that!
2. Don’t scrape your lingual tonsils
In outlining how to use a tongue scraper above, point two said to reach the scraper to the back of your tongue…
DON’T GO ANY FURTHER!
Your tongue has a few different parts to it and the part you want to clean is the dorsum (where your taste buds are).
At the very back of your tongue, just before it connects to the hyoid bone are two mounds of lymphatic tissue.
These are your lingual tonsils.
If you look at your tongue in the mirror, you shouldn’t be able to see them…
…they’re located just where your tongue drops off out of view, shown in the image on the left.
They’re very important to the health of your mouth and your immune system overall.
What they do is fight off bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that make it into your mouth.
They do this by producing two types of what are called lymphocytes to help fight off infections when these pathogens come in contact with the tonsils:
- B lymphocytes kill pathogens by producing antibodies to fight them
- T lymphocytes directly kill pathogens by engulfing them
Your lingual tonsils know what they are doing and don’t need any help from you…
…don’t risk damaging them by scraping them.
3. Avoid the gag reflex
Your gag reflex is a defense system your body uses to stop you choking on things.
It can make cleaning your tongue uncomfortable or even induce vomiting…
…in fact, that’s exactly what people with bulimia do when they couldn’t stop themselves from eating.
It is triggered by smelling something disgusting or by touching pretty much anywhere in the back of your mouth, including:
- your tonsils,
- your soft palate
- your tongue
- your uvula
- the back of your throat
The good news is that it can be trained or conditioned…
…this is what sword swallowers do!
You do this overtime by gradually pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
This will happen naturally if you use a tongue scraper for a while.
However, if you are suffering with this reflex here are some things you can try:
- Coat your tongue scraper with some mouth wash
- Try and distract yourself and not focusing on your mouth (dentists usually have patients tap on their temples)
- Raise your leg and wiggle your toes. This should tighten your stomach muscles and help alleviate the gag reflex
- Try and breathe through your nose so your body knows you’re not choking and can still breathe. This should also close up your throat stopping you from gagging
4. Keep your tongue scraper clean
Finally, remember to keep your tongue scraper clean.
You don’t want to go to all this effort of getting rid of bacteria from your tongue…
…only to reintroduce them again the next time you use your tongue scraper.
Its simple to keep it clean, just make sure you do the following:
- Rinse any residue off of it every time you clean your tongue (I imagine you would do this automatically when you see what you scraped off!)
- If you have a plastic tongue scraper, make sure you replace it as often as you would replace your toothbrush
- If you have a metal tongue scraper, put it in the dishwasher every now and again (remember, your dishwasher also bakes your dishes to kill off any lingering bacteria!)
Choosing the right tongue scraper
Choosing the right tongue scraper can go a long way to helping you set up an easy and effective tongue scraping habit.
The design of the scraper may or may not induce the gag reflex, be effective at scraping away the bacteria or give you a full view and control of what you are doing.
I personally recommend Dr. Tung’s stainless steel tongue scraper.
Dr. Tung’s tongue scraper has a few advantages to offer, including:
- Easy to use and control
- Long lasting
- Effective and thorough cleaning
- Only 10 seconds to use
If you want to improve the overall health of your mouth, just add it to your morning routine and give it a go.
I think you’ll be pretty satisfied with the results.