Tongue cleaning, also known as tongue scraping or tongue brushing is a gentle procedure that is used to clean the tongue of bacteria, food debris, and toxins that accumulate on your tongue overnight. While this practice is relatively new to many Westerners, the practice of Jihwa Prakshalana (tongue scraping) has been part of Ayurvedic self-care for maintaining oral health for thousands of years.
According to the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology (AAOMP), a coated or hairy tongue is a sign of imbalance of keratin on the tongue. (1) The keratin formed on the top of our tongues is removed and swallowed when we eat. If there is an imbalance in your body, due to diet, illness or other factors, you can have an excess of keratin, bacteria or mucous that creates the appearance of a coated tongue. This coating can contribute to bad breath, lessen the taste of foods, as well as a host of other problems.
Ayurveda recommends daily tongue cleaning first thing in the morning as part of your daily self-care routine.
Benefits of tongue cleaning
Improves your breath
Bad breath can come from residual bacteria on the tongue. It can be difficult to reach the back of the tongue with a toothbrush, this is where a tongue scraper comes in handy. Studies have shown that tongue cleaning can reduce the amount of bacteria on the tongue. (2)
Improves food taste
If your tongue is covered with “fur”, a layer of keratin or mucous, your taste buds can be blocked and you won’t taste the true flavors of your foods. (3) Studies have shown that after two weeks of tongue cleaning taste sensations improved. (4)
Improves your overall dental health
Removing bacteria, toxins and mucous from your tongue promotes overall gum and tooth health. Bacteria and toxins can contribute to plaque build up, which can lead to receding gums, tooth decay and periodontal problems.
Improves your digestive health
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Tongue cleaning activates the production of saliva which helps with digestion. (4)
Tongue cleaners more effective than a toothbrush
While you can brush your tongue with a toothbrush to remove residue, studies show it’s just not as effective as a tongue scraper. (5) Tongue cleaners are also more effective at removing volatile sulfur compounds that contribute to bad breath.
How to scrape your tongue
Tongue cleaning is done first thing in the morning before eating.
Stand in front of your bathroom mirror, over a sink.
Stick your tongue out and hold each end of the scraper in each hand.
Place the scraper far back on your tongue and with a firm but gentle pressure, slide the scraper forward to the tip of your tongue.
If you stimulate the gag reflex, than you are placing the scraper to far back on your tongue. Move the scraper slightly forward to avoid the gagging reflex.
After each scraping rinse the scraper with running water to remove the residue and repeat until your tongue feels clean and there is no coating on your tongue.
This may take 7 to 14 passes.
Thoroughly clean your scraper after you are done. You can clean your tongue scraper with a number of different products, such as 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, diluted Grapefruit Seed Extract or Silver Hydrosol Spray.
Where to buy tongue scrapers
Tongue cleaners come in many styles. They can be made of gold, silver, copper, stainless steel or plastic. My preference is a tongue scraper that has a curved piece of stainless steel, it is not sharp, it is in a “u” shape with soft padded handles. Tongue scrapers are available online and at health food stores where dental products are sold.
- http://www.aaomp.org/public/hairy-tongue.php Hairy/Coated Tongue
- http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1806-83242008000500007&script=sci_arttext Halitosis: a review of associated factors and therapeutic approach
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18654938 [Tongue coating, mouth odor, gustatory sense disorder – earlier and new treatment options by means of tongue scraper].
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15191584 Impact of tongue cleansers on microbial load and taste.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15341360 Tongue-cleaning methods: a comparative clinical trial employing a toothbrush and a tongue scraper.
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