A tongue scraper may seem like a simple little tool for eliminating bad breath, but it's much more than that. Studies have shown that regularly cleaning one's tongue can reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth, which can help keep teeth clean and gums healthy.
Do you scrape your tongue? Few people do. While the benefits of tongue scraping seem pretty obvious to anyone who's ever had a case of bad breath, many folks skip it in the interest of wrapping up their oral cleaning routine as quickly as possible.
This is unfortunate, because cleaning the tongue can do wonders for oral odor and dental health. Consider the medical literature on the subject. A study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene (IJDH) found that children who used tongue scrapers had lower counts of Mutans streptococci in their mouths. Eliminating this microbe, which contributes to tooth decay, may do wonders for kids' health.
Adults can benefits from tongue scraping as well. An article appearing in the journal Archives of Oral Biology found that adults who used specialty tongue scrapers had significantly smaller bacterial loads on their tongues after just four days.
This effect doesn't last forever. Another study in the IJDH determined that after tongue cleaning, bacterial colonies can completely regrow in about three days. This led the authors to conclude that tongue scrapers should be used daily.
These implements have been around for thousands of years. In fact, some of the oldest known dental care artifacts are tongue scrapers. The University of Oxford's Pitt Rivers Museum houses a centuries-old, two-handled copper tongue scraper that was unearthed in India. (The institution also houses a fine collection of ancient toothpicks made from quills and precious metals.)
Maybe people who lived back then knew what we often forget today - namely, that tongue scraping can reduce the incidence of bad breath.
It's scientifically proven. A study published by The Cochrane Library found that, in two separate tests, tongue scraping reduced the amount of smelly compounds in the mouth by 42 and 75 percent, respectively. The authors commented that brushing one's teeth seems to make the effect even more pronounced.
So, keeping bad breath out of the picture may be as simple as buying a specialty breath-cleansing tongue scraper and using it every day. By getting rid of tongue scum and oral bacteria, you can freshen your breath and keep your teeth cleaner.