What is a Tongue Scraper?

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  • Written By: KD Morgan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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A tongue scraper is an ergonomic device used for cleansing the tongue of bacteria, dead cells, fungi and undigested food. The concept dates back thousands of years to ancient China and India and tongue cleaners have been used by the elite and health conscience since. In the 1980’s, tongue scrapers found their way back into mainstream society.

The tongue’s surface consists of a series of papillae (puh-pih-lee). The papillae in the front of the tongue are small taste buds. The larger nodules in the back of the tongue are responsible for flushing the tongue with digestive enzymes so that the taste buds can recognize and respond to the varying introductions of sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami (savory).

Tongue scrapers should be used before brushing and flossing to prevent debris from leaking to the back of the throat and being reintroduced to the body. Only the small papillae should be scraped as the larger nodules can become damaged or irritated. One should begin using the tongue scraper as far back as possible before the line where the larger, vallate papillae begins.

The average child has approximately 10,000 taste buds but as we age, the number diminishes. Smoking and poor health decrease reproduction as we age. Caring for and using a tongue scraper will keep our taste buds healthy and reproducing at a higher rate.


The accumulation of microorganisms that colonize on the tongue, extend out to all areas of the mouth. More than 70% of the bacterial and fungal microorganisms in the mouth reside on the tongue. Without cleansing the tongue, anything from plaque, tooth decay, oral cancer, periodontal disease, candida, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung and respiratory conditions, pneumonia, osteoporosis of the jaw, premature birth and more are capable of invading the human body as a result. The invasions occur primarily through the bloodstream and the digestive tract.

In addition, the combination of decaying bacteria and amino acids produce sulfur compounds. This accumulates in the back of the tongue around the vallate papillae (large papillae) and is the primary cause of halitosis in 80-95% of cases. Those that use a tongue scraper, even though the large papillae are not scraped, prevent debris from accumulating so bad breath is reduced significantly. People with conditions such as allergies or asthma find that sinus drainage can also contribute accumulated bacteria, resulting in bad breath.

A tongue scraper is an easy, inexpensive, comfortable and quick tool. They are designed from materials of plastic to sterling silver. In the 19th century, they were handcrafted using ivory and tortoise shell. This simple device promotes good oral hygiene while helping to maintain your mouth’s proper pH balance. As an added bonus, the tongue scraper improves the sense of taste by keeping the taste buds healthy.


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