Let’s have a moment of silence for what our tongues endure each day. Hot coffee. Rando food mashes. Bacteria noshing on sugar residue from your morning smoothie.

Chances are, you already know to whip out your toothbrush twice a day. But have you considered adding tongue scraping?

Intrigued? Here’s your crash course in tongue scraping 101.

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Remember all those food particles and bacteria that get trapped between your teeth and stuck to your tongue each day? Yep, they can lead to bad breath and tooth decay. Delicately scraping your tongue could remove some of that nastiness.

Here are the main benefits.

  • Tastier food. Yep, tongue scraping may improve your sense of taste. A small 2004 study found that folks who scraped their tongues daily for 2 weeks could better identify bitter, sweet, salty, and sour flavors. *chef’s kiss*
  • Bacteria, be gone. Lots of people scrape their tongues to get rid of excess bacteria. TBH, the research on this is iffy. One study suggested that peeps with gum infections weren’t able to lower their mouth bacteria with tongue scraping. But regular scraping *did* make their mouths feel more clean and fresh.
  • A cleaner-looking tongue. Ever noticed your tongue getting a little milky or gray? Excess food or bacteria buildup can create a coating on your tongue (yikes! 😬). Daily scraping can help keep the crud at bay (yay! 🙌).
  • An oral health boost. In general, upping your oral hygiene game = fewer cavities and reduced chances of gum disease, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
  • Better breath. Another small 2004 study suggested that tongue scrapers are better than toothbrushes at removing volatile sulfur compounds, which are the substances that cause mouth stank. However, a research review noted that there just haven’t been enough studies to confirm whether tongue scraping truly helps.

Tongue-scraping fans love to talk about how it banishes dragon breath for good. The truth is, tongue scraping is a very physical, short-term way to remove gunk from your mouth.

Tongue scraping isn’t a magic solution to bad breath caused by conditions like:

Also, scraping in the a.m. isn’t going to do a thing about the garlic and onion pizza you eat for lunch.

Preparation is key: Choosing the right tool

There’s a wide variety of tongue scrapers on the market — mostly plastic, stainless steel, and copper. Your tongue scraper will be slightly rounded, with a bit of an edge for scraping.

Step-by-step: Tongue scraping 101

Let’s take your tongue from funky to fresh in 2 minutes or less.

  1. Look in the mirror and stick out your tongue.
  2. Carefully place the rounded edge of the tongue scraper toward the back of your tongue. Go as far back as you comfortably can *without* gagging!
  3. If you feel the urge to gag, start at the middle of your tongue instead. You can work your way back over the next few days.
  4. As you put gentle pressure on your tongue with the scraper, sloooowly pull it forward toward the tip. Always scrape from back to front.
  5. Take a look at the goop on your scraper. You just cleaned your tongue! *high five*
  6. Wipe the scraper on a washcloth or tissue to get rid of the goop.
  7. Repeat steps 1 to 7 until you’ve scraped the whole surface of your tongue.
  8. Wash up the scraper (warm water and soap will do) and store it in a clean, dry space until tomorrow.

TBH, tongue scrapers look kinda like large upside-down spoons.

You can actually use a clean kitchen spoon for tongue scraping if you want. Just keep in mind that tongue-spooning isn’t research-backed!

Tongue scraping isn’t risky business. And it shouldn’t be painful.

That said, folks with sensitive gag reflexes might have a hard time tongue scraping. Avoid the urge to puke by scraping from the middle of your tongue instead of the back. You can gradually shift to whole-tongue scraping over time.

It’s also possible to cut the surface of your tongue with a scraper. Remember to use firm, gentle pressure. Oh, and inspect your scraper regularly for rough edges!

Got a sore tongue from scraping? Take a few days off. If your tongue still feels painful after a break, talk with your dentist.

Got dragon breath? Tongue scraping is only one tool in your arsenal. Try a well-rounded mouth-cleaning routine.

  • Brush your teeth and gums with a soft-bristle toothbrush at least twice per day.
  • Take your time! A good tooth brushing sesh lasts for 2 minutes. Play “Fell in Love with a Girl” by the White Stripes for a perfectly timed routine.
  • Don’t forget the floss! Floss every evening to get rid of any food remnants.
  • Sip H2O throughout the day to keep bad breath away.
  • Try to nix the cigarettes, which can lead to tongue buildup and bad breath.
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings. Most medical experts recommend two per year.

You mean other than for your twice-yearly cleanings?

Make an appointment with your dentist or doctor if you notice:

  • a daily dry mouth
  • a dark, furry coating on your tongue — aka, “hairy tongue”
  • white patches in your mouth and on your tongue

Scraping won’t help any of the above conditions, and it could exacerbate your tongue probs. In general, talk with your dentist if you have any ongoing oral health conditions, from bad breath to cavities.