How to Choose a Tongue Cleaner for Better Oral Health and Fresher Breath

November 25, 2020

How to Choose a Tongue Cleaner for Better Oral Health and Fresher Breath

woman, bathroom, dental hygiene

As we covered in another blog, there are many benefits to your oral health from tongue cleaning. But are all tongue cleaners alike? Can't one just use a toothbrush to scrub the tongue or even a kitchen spoon. Let's take a look.

There are numerous tongue cleaners to choose from, so finding one should not be a problem. Here are some options:

Using a toothbrush instead of a tongue scraper: Yes, you can use your toothbrush to give the surface of your tongue a light scrub. But this should only be used when nothing else is available. While a toothbrush is better than nothing, studies have shown that they are not as effective as using an actual tongue cleaner. One clinical study showed that a tongue cleaner reduced VSC levels (Volatile Sulfur Compounds–the main driver of bad breath) by 75% while using a toothbrush to clean the tongue only reduced levels by 45%. That is a big difference. (Note: in a pinch you can even use a kitchen spoon, but as tongue scrapers are pretty inexpensive, just buy one) 

Copper tongue scrapers: these are very popular in Ayurvedic medicine. This is due to the property of copper to inhibit bacterial growth. For centuries copper has been used where it was important to inhibit bacterial growth, such as water containers. Other studies suggest that copper is used naturally within our bodies to fight microbes and pathogens. While this makes copper a great choice for a tongue scraper, there are some potential downsides.

  • One, they are more expensive than other scrapers.
  • Two, the copper tends to break down more quickly and so they require replacement more often.
  • Three, they do tend to have a “taste” that not everyone agrees with.
  • And finally, with other developments in natural dental care the antibacterial property may not be as important as it was in olden times.

Plastic tongue scrapers: while cheap and easy to carry, these are our least favorite option if for no other reason than they are environmentally wasteful.

  • In terms of tongue scraping, the plastic material generally means that they have to be designed in a spoon shape rather than a gentle blade. This shape is not as effective for scraping and also tends to collect bacteria, so as you clean (it takes several passes over the tongue) you are likely to spread the bacteria back again!
  • Plus, since they are made of a softer material than metal, they are more likely to get nicks or rough edges–a definite "no" when it comes to your tongue. 
  • They also have a tendency to get kind of “gunky” after a while and so need to be replaced quite often.

Other than the fact that they might feel gentler on your tongue, there is no good reason to buy a plastic model.

Stainless steel tongue scrapers: these are by far our favorites. Just be sure to buy a quality model that is made from surgical stainless steel as they last longer and feel better on your tongue. Also look to see that they have a gentle curve to the blade so as not to irritate the delicate bumps, papillae, on your tongue. Since stainless steel is so hard, it is very unlikely to develop any irregularities with use that might injure your tongue. It is by far the longest lasting material and so this one is the more economical choice over time.

A note on the handles or grip. It is best to purchase a tongue scraper that has grooves or some arrangement on the handle to make them easy to grip. And you should only buy a tongue cleaner that is one solid piece. Those metal scrapers with plastic handles are not preferable as they tend to collect bacteria in the handles–yuck factor alert.

Finally, the edge of the blade is pretty important. What you want is a clean, even surface that is just the right balance between “scraping edge” and gentle “curve” so that you can clean off the debris and bacteria without irritating your tongue.

Ok, time to go buy a tongue cleaner and get on the road to fresher breath, fewer cavities and better oral health. And while you are searching for a tongue cleaner, be sure to check out our surgical-grade, stainless steel tongue cleaner that was designed by our holistic dentist.

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