4 Benefits Of Tongue Scraping + How To Get The Hang Of It
Jihwa Prakshalana, or the Ayurvedic self-care ritual known as tongue scraping, is a beneficial oral hygiene practice. A tongue scraper is a long, thin, flat piece of metal or plastic that's bent in a "U" shape to remove bacteria, food debris, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue.
Traditionally done in the morning to remove any debris that formed overnight, tongue scraping is an ancient practice that's starting to gain modern appeal. Here are four reasons to add it to your daily routine:
It can temporarily improve bad breath.
Bad breath can have a negative impact on a person’s life, relationships, and self-esteem. Most bad breath comes from the bacteria at the back of the tongue, an area that's difficult to reach with a toothbrush. Clinical studies have shown that tongue scraping can significantly reduce the amount of this bacteria, leading to better breath.
That's because the scraping action of a tongue scraper collects these coatings (which can range in color from clear, white, yellow, or green, ick!) and removes them from the mouth in one fell swoop. While you can, of course, just use a toothbrush to brush the tongue, the unique shape of a tongue scraper helps it remove more bacteria per swipe1.
It can enhance the flavors of your food.
If you don't take steps to remove buildup on the tongue, your taste buds can become blocked over time. This may lead to false cravings or an inability to pick up certain flavors from your food. Tongue scraping has been shown to better expose your taste buds and improve taste sensation.
It's good for tooth and gum health.
When combined with brushing and flossing, this oral hygiene practice removes bacteria responsible for periodontal problems, plaque buildup, tooth decay, gum infections, and gum recession, making it a good promoter of general tooth and gum health.
It might enhance digestion.
In Ayurveda, proper digestion is considered to be the foundation of health. Given that digestion begins with taste, the ancient medical system says that removing tongue buildup ultimately makes the entire digestive process run more smoothly. Scraping also activates saliva production and promotes agni (the body’s digestive fire) to help with digestion throughout the day.
For now, this perk is purely anecdotal; there's no scientific research to back it up.
How to scrape your tongue.
To reap the benefits of this Ayurvedic routine, you need to do it on a daily basis. Here's how:
- In the morning upon rising, and on an empty stomach, head over to your bathroom sink.
- Brush and floss first to loosen debris, then grab your tongue scraper.
- Standing in front of a mirror, scrape your tongue by simply holding the two ends of the scraper in both hands, sticking out your tongue, and placing the scraper as far back on your tongue as comfortably possible.
- With firm but gentle pressure, scrape the surface of your tongue in one long stroke, from back to front.
- Rinse the scraper under water.
- Repeat until your tongue feels clean and is free of coating. It usually takes 5-10 swipes.
Where to buy a tongue scraper.
Tongue scrapers are inexpensive and can be found at most health food stores as well as online. Chose a stainless steel scraper over a plastic one; they're easier to clean and are ideal for balancing for all Ayurvedic constitutions and imbalances.
In a pinch, the side of a metal spoon can be effective!
The bottom line.
Adding tongue scraping to your morning oral care routine can remove the bacteria that leads to bad breath and dampens the taste of food. It's an ancient Ayurvedic tradition that is truly timeless.
Gillian Mandich, M.S., PhD, received her Masters and PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences from Western University. While there, her research examined health promotion, specifically physical activity, childhood obesity, nutrition, and diabetes. Gillian is a holistic health advocate, yoga and Yoga Tune Up® teacher, co-host of the popular health podcast The Holistic Health Diary, and contributes to numerous print and online media. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @gillianmandich.