While it may sound out there, tongue scraping is an everyday wellness ritual that many swear by.
Tongue scraping is a practice originating from ancient Ayurvedic medicine that involves cleaning the coating of the tongue by scraping with a round tool made from plastic, copper or stainless steel.
This allows for small particles such as bacteria, toxins, and even tiny pieces of food debris to be removed from the tongue's surface.
Did you know that the mouth's microbiome is home to over 600 species of microbes (1)?
Runner up to the gut, it represents the second largest microbial community in humans (2). Just like in the gut, the oral microbiome houses both good and not so good bacteria and tongue scraping can help to keep these species within a healthy balance (3).
The tongue can also provide another window into one's internal health.
According to Ayurvedic medicine, the tongue is said to connect to a multitude of vital organs in the body including the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, spleen, and stomach while reflecting the health of these internal organs.
You may wonder, can't this be accomplished with a toothbrush? Well yes, but not to the same effects. A study found that tongue scraping showed a 75% reduction in volatile sulfur compounds compared to a toothbrush that merely resulted in a 45% reduction (4).
It's important to note however that tongue scraping does not replace toothbrushing, it is merely a supportive oral health tool that can help to clear out toxins from the mouth among other effects.
Tongue scraping isn't anything new however research is now catching up to this ancient practice and revealing that it does in fact confer many benefits that go beyond just oral health.
5 benefits of tongue scraping
Improves oral health
A healthy mouth requires keeping pathogenic bacteria in check.
Keeping your tongue clean with regular tongue scraping can be an effective method of removing bad bacteria and it may even help to prevent oral and dental health problems in the long-run.
Reduces bad breath
Toothbrushing may be the most important dental habit to maintain, however tongue scraping may be more efficient at tackling halitosis, or bad breath.
Bad breath is primarily caused by sulphur producing bacteria that live on the tongue and in the mouth and tongue scraping can help to reduce these bacteria which in turn can support a fresher and cleaner breath.
One study found that tongue scraping was more effective at reducing bacteria associated with halitosis than toothbrushing while another found that scraping twice daily for 7 days significantly decreased oral malodour (7).
Improves your tongue's appearance
When bacteria and debris from food build up it can cause a white coating to be formed on the surface of the tongue.
Tongue scraping has been shown to reduce and even eliminate this coating and improve the appearance of the tongue (8).
When you start to practice regular tongue scraping, you may also notice an increased sense of taste and a fresher palate.
A small study found that tongue cleaning with a plastic scraper for 2 weeks resulted in a greater taste sensation than with a brush (9).
By clearing the coating that covers our tastebuds, tongue scraping may help to enrich the culinary experience of a meal through enhancing flavor profiles (10).
May improve digestion
It can be easy to forget, but digestion first starts in your mouth. Improving oral hygiene of the mouth may in turn help to support the rest of the digestive process.
And research is now starting to support this claim. A study that evaluated the effects of tongue cleaning on digestive power found digestive symptoms such as constipation and watery and foul smelling stools were improved (11).
Tongue scraping may benefit digestion in several ways such as supporting the production of salivary enzymes, reducing the accumulation of toxins and helping to control appetite and prevent overeating, all of which can make a difference on the absorption of nutrients, the efficiency of food breakdown, and digestive symptoms.