Dear Ask Ayurveda,
“A friend of mine recently told me about the benefits of tongue scraping for oral health and even the health of the body. I have not used an official tongue scraper before, but I have been brushing my tongue with my toothbrush for years. I am just curious if there is a difference and if one is more powerful than the other. I do have a slight coating on the back of my tongue and often have bad breath in the morning. Do you think a tongue scraper would be better for these issues than simply brushing the tongue? I would be happy to switch if it would be beneficial.” Tongue Brusher in Texas
Dear Tongue Brusher in Texas,
Thank you for your question! I am always happy to provide a little clarity on these confusing issues. Tongue scraping and tongue brushing are indeed quite different practices. In fact, this is such an ongoing debate there has even been clinical trials that have been done to compare the effectiveness of these two procedures.
Although it has recently become a “new” phenomenon, tongue scraping is actually an ancient practice that has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years.
Health Benefits of Tongue Scraping
- Removes dead bacteria from the tongue and prevents the reabsorption of these toxins back into the system
- Wakes up the organs each morning, as different areas of the tongue correlate with different organs
- Sparks the digestion
- Enhances the taste buds
- Removes bad breath (halitosis)
Will using a toothbrush provide the same benefits?
The simple answer is NO. An Ayurvedic tongue scraper is typically made out of stainless steel, copper, silver, or gold. These hard materials, along with the specific shape of the scraper, is designed to literally scrape off gunk from a soft surface. Alternatively, the toothbrush is soft and made to scrape off gunk from a hard surface. Therefore there is truly no comparison between the two, and even the recent clinical trials agree.
The coating you are experiencing on your tongue is caused by toxins in the system and is typically a combination of dead bacteria, hydrogen sulfide and mercaptans (Volatile Sulfur Compounds) which are the primary components of halitosis (bad breath). In order not to reabsorb these unwanted components into the system (and freshen the breath), it is essential that one removes this coating each morning directly upon awakening. Although clinical trials are limited on this matter, the typical findings have shown that the tongue scraper will remove an average of 75% of the Volatile Sulfur Compounds (VSC), while only about 45% are removed with the toothbrush.
Not surprisingly, the toothbrush does not seem to be cutting it for your current issues (coating on the tongue, bad breath), and therefore I would highly recommend switching over to an Ayurvedic tongue scraper. Once you make this change, I can practically guarantee you will see and feel the difference right away. I too was once a “tongue brusher” and honestly, I am not sure how I went so long without using the scraper. It is not hard to see that there is truly no comparison, even after the first scrape.
Before we part, I would like to leave you with a little food for thought. The coating (aka toxins) on the tongue is only temporarily removed by the scraper, and therefore needs to be addressed in a deeper way. The “bad” bacteria in the mouth has recently been linked to other disorders in the body from digestive issues, cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s. According to Ayurveda, the coating on the tongue is a clear sign that there are toxins prevalent in the system. Therefore in order to really treat this issue, one will need to detoxify the system and remove the cause(s) of the toxins. In the meantime, the tongue scraper is a great way to reduce these toxins on the tongue and reduce bad breath.
I look forward to hearing how it goes!