Tongue scraping for oral & digestive health
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
The first time I tried scraping my tongue, I was pretty surprised if not slightly grossed out by the thick layer of gunk that came off with the first scrape. I had no idea that there was so much build-up on my tongue! Since then, I have made it a point to scrape my tongue first thing in the morning, and it has become one of my daily habits.
Although not as commonly practiced in the States, tongue scraping has been around for millennia and is a time-tested Ayurvedic daily self-care practice with many benefits. The Charaka Samhita, the oldest surviving authoritative Ayurvedic text includes tongue scraping as one of the daily procedures for maintaining good health (Sanskrit: dinacharya), mentioning that a good tongue scraper should be made of gold, copper, tin, or brass, and that the tongue should be properly scraped to remove impurities (ama) that accumulate on the surface (1). These days, stainless steel also provides us with an affordable and safe option (although Dr. Douillard of Lifespa makes a pretty strong case for copper scrapers because of their antiseptic qualities!) (2). There are many good reasons for us to make tongue scraping a daily practice.
Effective in reducing bad breath vs. with tooth-brushing alone
Studies have shown that scraping your tongue daily can help reduce bad breath. Most bad breath is said to originate in the mouth, with a significant percentage caused by tongue residue. One study comparing tongue scraping with brushing showed that tongue scraping was significantly more effective than brushing the tongue in reducing the volatile sulfur compounds that cause bad breath (3). It has also been shown that those who practice tongue scraping along with daily tooth brushing generally have better breath and also less tongue coating than those who just brush (4). While there are certainly other sources of bad breath, starting a daily tongue scraping practice certainly wouldn't hurt if you are looking to keep your mouth fresher each day!