Why Just Brushing Your Tongue May Not Be Enough

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toothbrush and hands Cleaning your tongue is important and necessary to your everyday oral care. The tongue is a prime landing and breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria, food debris, plaque, toxins, fungi and dead cells. Yuck! Hopefully you’re already at least brushing your tongue while brushing your teeth to help rid of bacteria that often makes it’s appearance as an unappealing white, clear or brownish film on your tongue. And although this is a good idea, it just may not be effective enough in removing all that build up of gunk. Just brushing your tongue can actually just move around the bacteria or get it stuck in your brush bristles rather than effectively remove them, and brushing harder is likely to irritate your taste buds. But have no fear, there’s another, better option that is sure to help! And it’s not a new practice at all, but has actually been around for over 5,000 years!

The answer is an Ayurvedic self-care ritual called Jihwa Prakshalana, or “tongue scraping.” If you read our article, “Oil Pulling: Friend or Foe?” you know a bit about Ayurvedic health practices already (and if you haven’t read it, you should really check it out!). But in a nutshell, Ayurveda is the ancient Indian “science of life,” of which many of their practices are resurfacing in holistic health today. Research has actually proven that tongue scraping is more effective than just brushing your tongue at removing and reducing levels of streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus (fancy words for the bacteria known to cause tooth decay).

4 Reasons to Scrape Your Tongue:

  1. Detoxify your body and improve your immune system and digestive health as well as your overall health.
  2. Reduce bad breath (halitosis) by getting rid of odor-causing bacteria and debris.
  3. Taste your favorite foods more intensely by cleaning your taste buds to improve your overall sense of taste.
  4. Last but NOT least, because oral health is important, duh! And removing bacteria on your tongue reduces your risk of problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

metal spoonThe ideal device to scrape your tongue is a “U” or “V” shaped, thin, metal tool. Ayurveda recommends gold, silver or copper, depending on one’s “prakriti,” or individual constitution. But stainless steel is more practical, works on any constitution, is very inexpensive and can last you a lifetime. A spoon can even be used as a decent tongue-scraping device when in a pinch; a smaller spoon usually works better than larger. There are other products out there that focus or aide in cleaning your tongue; ranging from grooves and ridges on the back of a toothbrush to plastic scrapers with a long handle resembling a toothbrush. And again, these are better than nothing, but they aren’t as effective and being we all know plastics aren’t good for the environment or our health, a metal tongue scraper is advised.

So now that you know WHY you should, HOW do you do it? Easy as 1… 2… 3!

  1. Do it in the morning, before you brush your teeth and on an empty stomach.
  2. Place the scraper as far back on your tongue as possible and guide it forward along your tongue in one long stroke with thorough but gentle pressure to remove the gunk on your tongue (don’t scrape too hard as to irritate your tongue).
  3. Rinse off any debris on the scraper and repeat the process until your tongue feels clean and you’ve removed most, if not all, of the gunk (usually about 5-10 times).

And Voila! You’ve removed toxins, bacteria and plaque and all within 10 seconds!

 

Although scraping your tongue any time, or even multiple times in a day is beneficial, it’s recommended you do it first thing in the morning because it will be most effective then. Our digestive system continues to work even when we’re sleeping, and removes toxins from our body and expels them on the surface of our tongue. If these toxins aren’t removed, the body can reabsorb them, which can lead to many problems and affect multiple systems, not to mention some nasty breath!

When scraping your tongue, try to focus on getting as far back as you can because it’s the posterior, or back part, that has the most build up. The tip of your tongue is able to cleanse itself since actions such as swallowing and talking require it to move against your hard palate on the top of your mouth and the back of your teeth. This makes it unlikely for the tip of your tongue to harvest too much odor-producing bacteria. However, the back of your tongue will touch only your soft palate, at best, which won’t create enough friction or contact to do any significant cleansing. That’s why when you open your mouth and look at your tongue, the back of it usually looks different than the front and with more “gunk.” Using a tongue scraper rather than a toothbrush when cleaning your tongue will help remove bacteria further back because you’re less likely to a trigger your gag reflex.

If something so simple and quick as tongue-scraping can help eliminate “dog breath,”  improve oral and overall health, why not try it out?! And we’d love to hear how it goes for you, so comment below!

dog tongue

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