Our tongues work hard. We need them to taste food, to talk, to kiss. They not only move food around to help us swallow, but they also work to get tiny pieces of food out of our teeth after a meal, right? According to Dr. Martinna Bertolini, an assistant professor of dental medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, the tongue is the only tissue in the human body that has papillae—minuscule bumps that help grip food. They come in handy, say, when you're licking an ice cream cone or slurping noodles. The tongue also has thousands of tastebuds covering the surface, as well as grooves that are as unique to the individual as fingerprints. Which is to say, there are a lot of little spaces where gunk can build up.
New York-based dentist, Dr. Jennifer Plotnick, likens the tongue to a soft, fleshy carpet. In all those little wet crevices, bacteria is just chilling and breeding—leaving you with a discolored, often smelly coating. What's the coating made of? Dead cells, food debris and whatever's left after all that bacteria is done reproducing. You see, that's what's responsible for the volatile sulfur compounds, such as Hydrogen Sulfide, which lead to the rotten egg smell. Dr. Plotnick goes back to the carpet metaphor and says if your rugs got that dirty every day, you'd want to clean them every day. And the closest thing to a tiny steam vacuum is a tongue scraper.
They've been around for years and seem to come in and out of popularity, but they're definitely enjoying a resurgence these days, thanks to TikTok. The oral wellness practice has become the latest fixation, with over 200 million views for the hashtags #tonguescraper and #tonguescraping. If watching those videos is not enough to convince you, listen to the doctors, like Dr. Brian Harris, a cosmetic dentist and lead medical advisor of oral care brand Snow. He says that simply brushing your tongue is not enough. To prove his point, he says to use a scraper after you have already brushed your tongue and you'll be surprised with what still comes off your tongue. Ready for fresher breath, a cleaner tongue and a healthier micro biome in your mouth? Here are the scrapers we'd suggest. Any will do you good, but some might suit your needs better.
The Editor’s Pick
This is not the typical looking scraper, but that's why we loved it so much. There's no metallic taste and it's narrow enough to reach the full length of any tongue. The dual-action design features a textured scraper that rakes the surface gently and the other side has two rows of bristles that clean and smooth the tongue even further. But, since it's plastic, it will likely need to be replaced every three months, like your toothbrush.
$5.57 by GUM
Best for Sensitive
Scraping the back of your tongue can take some getting used to and for those with a sensitive gag reflex, this uniquely shaped scraper was designed specifically to be able to reach far back on the tongue without triggering the reflex. Dr. Harris says the large stainless steel loop allows you to cover the surface of the tongue in one pass.
$22 / $12 by Snow
Best for Added
With an ergonomic U-shaped design, this flexible scraper is made from copper. The metal is not only toxic to the bad bacteria but also provides enzymes that are beneficial for healthy bacteria to survive. The ancient healing practice of Ayurveda also encourages copper tongue scrapers for their cleansing and healing properties—the idea being that scraping helps remove the toxins from the mouth, keeping them from being absorbed and affecting your overall health.
$4.99 by Bäst
This is the most common scraper, and for good reason. Crafted from surgical-grade stainless steel, it's sturdy and effective. This one is a little wider than most, which makes it easier and more effective and you'll notice one side is a little more gentle than the other side, depending on your preference or needs. And it comes with a handy storage case.
$6.99 (for two) by Cafhelp
If you're concerned about hygiene or want to stash a few scrapers in your travel kit or desk drawer, consider these disposable scrapers, made from recycled plastic. Of course, they're not as sturdy and the small handles can make it a challenge for a man's hand to reach the back of his tongue, but they do include a foldout bendable toothpick in the base of each scraper.
$3.99 (for 32 scrapers) by Grin
How to Use a
Rolling Stones logo set,
$149.99 by Lego
After brushing in the morning, leave a little toothpaste in your mouth to help coat your tongue. Then, drag the scraper gently over the top surface of the tongue, moving from back to front a few times, before rinsing and swishing with mouthwash. The dentists warn against pressing too hard. Just let the scraper do the work.