Tongue Scraping

In this article we'll review how to tongue scrape and what research says about its effectiveness.

Written by Brian Maurer
Updated over a week ago

What does a tongue scraper do?

A tongue scraper can help reduce the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Sometimes, oral microbiome dysbiosis leads to the growth of bacteria on the tongue that causes bad breath, such as Solobacterium moorei or Granulicatella adiacens. These bacteria can be reduced by tongue scraping, but they can still grow back each day. However, bacteria on the gums will be unaffected by tongue scraping.

How to use a tongue scraper

Here's how to clean your tongue using a tongue scraper:

  1. Choose a tongue scraping instrument. Tongue scrapers come in both metal and plastic materials.

  2. Stick out your tongue as far as is comfortable.

  3. Place your tongue scraper on the back of your tongue.

  4. Press the tongue scraper down against your tongue and drag it toward the front of your tongue.

  5. Clean the tongue scraper under warm water to remove debris and bacteria from it. Spit excess saliva that may have built up during the process.

  6. Repeat steps 2 to 5 several times. As needed, adjust the placement and the pressure you apply to it to prevent a gag reflex.

  7. Clean and dry the tongue scraper and store it for subsequent use. You can scrape your tongue one-to-two times a day. If you gag during the process, you may want to scrape your tongue before eating breakfast to avoid vomiting.

How often should you scrape your tongue?

Try tongue scraping at least daily as part of your morning oral hygiene routine.

By tongue scraping daily, you might help reduce the abundance of those bad breath-causing bacteria and should help reduce white coating. However, they will still grow back each day, typically overnight as you sleep. By adding tongue scraping to your morning routine, you may be able to hold off bad breath for half of the day, but it inevitably returns by night and often by the following morning. Make sure you clean your tongue scraper after using it!

How effective is tongue scraping?

Regular tongue scraping has been found to reduce the levels of VSCs in people with bad breath by 30-75%.

A 2001 study looked at the effectiveness of different tongue cleaning approaches in lowering oral VSC levels. They used a combination brush and scraper tool, a tongue scraper, and a standard toothbrush. The tests showed a 42%, 40%, and 30% reduction in VSC levels, respectively.

The reduction in VSC levels lasted significantly longer in patients who used the tongue scraper, but after 30 minutes, the reduction in all cases could not be detected.

What if tongue scraping isn't working for you?

Here are some possible reasons your tongue scraper isn’t helping with your bad breath:

  • Bad breath is not coming from your tongue, but from your gums! Your gum pockets are coated in bacteria. Normally, healthy ones live there and prevent the bad ones from causing disease and bad breath. However, bad bacteria can invade your gums and cause problems. These bacteria cause bad breath. Specific mouthwash containing chlorine dioxide or hydrogen peroxide can help reduce these bacteria.

  • Bad breath is coming from an outgrowth of Candida. An overgrowth of Candida is known as oral thrush. Your tongue can host Candida, but did you know Candida also grows on your gums, cheeks, and roof of your mouth? Candida growth can give a cheese-like stink that can also cause bad breath. Importantly, tongue scraping does not usually help with Candida outgrowth! Candida grow deep into the tissue when you have an infection, which can be treated by special anti-fungals

  • Bad breath from your tonsils. Tonsils can harbor bacteria which grow, and eventually harden into tonsil stones. These stones are built on dead cells from you and the oral microbiome, which also contains stinky molecules and byproducts. Removing these tonsil stones can fix bad breath.

What can you do if tongue scraping isn’t working?

  • Floss or use a waterflosser. Most of the time, if tongue scraping isn’t helping with your breath, then the bacteria are accumulating at your gums. You can get rid of them by flossing or using a waterpik.

  • Use mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide or chlorine dioxide. Both of these kill anaerobic bacteria that cause bad breath.


Incorporating tongue scraping into your daily hygiene practice is a great way to level up your oral health. Tongue scraping, brushing with a toothbrush, and several mouthwashes are great options for cleaning the back of your tongue.

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