Table of Contents
- What Causes Bad Breath
- Why Brushing Isn’t Enough
- Tongue Scrapers
- Copper vs. Steel vs. Plastic
- Top 5 Tongue Scrapers
- Best Tongue Scraper Wrap Up
One of biggest turn offs (in general) is bad breath. No one likes talking to someone when every time they open their mouths, it feels like you’re getting blown back six feet. Sadly, some people suffer from a chronic problem of bad breath. They try brushing their tongue, mouthwash and harsh mint chewing gums. Some of these work and some of them don’t.
We have toothbrushes for our teeth and floss for our gums. Is there a tool out there to take care of bad breath? There actually is.
Hailing from Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine, tongue scrapers are a potential solution to bad breath. They’ve been used for thousands of years on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere. They are still common today in stores across India and Pakistan. Even though they are popular there, are they actually an effective tool for reducing bad breath and improving dental health?
First, you need to understand how we get bad breath in the first place. Then we’ll get to our list of the best tongue scrapers.
What Causes Bad Breath
The logic behind tongue scrapers is pretty straightforward. That thick layer of greenish nastiness living on your tongue? Must be the cause of your bad breath. You take a solid, bladed instrument and scrape it right off. Sounds great, but what does the scientific literature say about whether or not it works?
Turns out, the Ayurvedic practitioners may have had the right idea all along. Dental health scientists have only recently discovered the specific cause of bad breath. Bacteria living on the tongue give off “volatile sulfur compounds.” These bacteria are responsible for up to 95% of bad breath.
More specifically, these beasties seem to congregate on the very back of the tongue where it’s hardest to brush. This is where tongue scrapers come in. They have the ability to reach all the way back there and remove bacteria.
Why Brushing Isn’t Enough
Ok, bad breath is caused by bacteria on the tongue. So, why not just brush your tongue? Why would you even need a tongue scraper in the first place?
While brushing your teeth will definitely improve your breath, it is less effective at removing the bacteria that live on the tongue. One study comparing both tongue scrapers and just brushing the tongue found that tongue scrapers were almost twice as effective at cleaning the tongue than a regular toothbrush.
The surface of the tongue is a lot more textured than teeth. There are more places for bacteria to cling to. Therefore, a more solid tool than a soft bristle brush is needed.
Since most bad breath comes from the tongue, cleaning off the tongue is a priority. Tongue scrapers use simple mechanical action to physically remove the bacteria living on the tongue.
There are several studies which have shown that tongue scrapers are indeed effective at reducing bad breath and bacteria on the tongue. One study looked at sixty male participants with bad oral habits. Some of them were chronic smokers, others were heavy coffee drinkers. The scientists did not change their habits except for the inclusion of tongue scrapers into their daily brushing times. The study found a significant reduction in both bacteria living on the tongue and bad odors.
This is significant because it shows that even if you don’t take away the thing which causes the growth of these bacteria in the first place, tongue scrapers definitely get rid of the foul smelling germs.
Tongue scrapers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Which one is the best?
Copper vs. Steel vs. Plastic
Tongue scrapers are come in the choice of three different materials: plastic, copper or stainless steel. The proper choice of material is vital to finding the best scraper on the market.
First up is stainless steel. This seems like the logical option. It’s easy to clean, durable and known for not promoting the growth of bacteria. Stainless steel is probably the most common material on the market for scrapers.
Next up is copper. It’s more flexible and pliable than stainless steel. Copper is not only easy to maintain but it actually has inherent bacteria killing properties that stainless steel does not have. A whole body of research has shown the microbe-killing effects of copper.
Finally, there is plastic. Just like stainless steel and copper, plastic is simple to clean. One advantage of plastic over metal is that it does not rust, and won’t weaken over time with use.
With the pros and cons of each material in mind, let’s take a look at the best tongue scrapers available on the market.
Top 5 Tongue Scrapers
This is a list of the top 5 tongue scrapers. I used criteria such as material, design and features to make this list.
These copper tongue cleaners are top on my list of best tongue scrapers for many reasons. First of all, they are made from copper. As I previously mentioned, copper is actively anti-bacterial. The material itself kills many harmful germs just on contact. So, these tongue scrapers need less effort to clean and do their job more thoroughly.
These scrapers are designed well. They come in the traditional “V” shape. They are fairly large in comparison to most metal tongue scrapers. The HealthAndYoga tongue scrapers can reach all the way onto the back of the tongue where the bad breath bacteria reside in their greatest density. Also, they are milled with really soft edges so they don’t hurt the tongue at all.
One downside is that copper will rust more easily than stainless steel. I noticed that they started getting the characteristic green rust after only a few weeks of use. Luckily, this product comes in a pack of 12!
Another is that these scrapers can be a bit hard to keep a solid grip on. The only thing that comes close to grips are the curled ends. They don’t help a whole lot if you need to really dig into it when you’re cleaning off your tongue.
Another scraper from HealthAndYoga, I chose the Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner for it’s design. Like the copper models from the same company it’s quite long and wide. It will reach all parts of the tongue and scrape off all the bad breath causing microbes. It’s made from surgical grade stainless steel which is very rust proof.
Just like the copper model, the stainless steel cleaner is well designed. I actually find it easier to use than the copper ones because it has cylindrical, textured grips on the ends. Moreover, these grips are also made of stainless steel so they stay just as sanitary as the rest of the scraper.
The reason this product is not #1 is simply that it’s not made of copper, and that it’s fairly sharp. The blade edge is sharper than it should be. Don’t worry, it’s not going to slice up your tongue. It’s just harsher on the tongue than the copper model is. A few times, my tongue actually hurt after using it. Just be sure to be a little careful when using this model and you’ll be fine.
I found the GUM Tongue Cleaner to be the best plastic model on the market. A plastic scraper is a great option if you’re allergic to copper. A copper allergy is surprisingly common. This scraper is designed with a fairly long handle. It can reach the very back of the tongue with ease. It’s not “V” shaped like the metal scrapers so it’s more user friendly than the stainless steel or copper models. Also, the tip pretty narrow for more precise use.
What’s noteworthy about this scraper is it also has a brush on the backside of the scraper tip. These bristles are not like the ones found on your normal toothbrush. They are stiff so they actually scrape off the bacteria.
There are a few downsides to this scraper. While not unique to the GUM Tongue Cleaner, plastic scrapers are actually more difficult to clean and maintain. On the microscopic level, they are porous. This means that bacteria have many places to hide in on the surface of the scraper. What makes matters worse is you can’t boil this scraper. It will permanently warp and damage it.
More directly related to this scraper, I noticed its scraping edge is wavy, not flat. This is a problem because I had to go over the same places multiple times to get all the gunk off. I’m not sure why it’s designed this way but it reduces the potential effectiveness of this scraper.
The Pureline Tongue Cleaner is another great plastic scraper. Compared to the GUM model, this is much wider. The scraper head is probably double the size as well. It’s made from a sturdy hardened plastic. Unlike the other plastic scraper, the blade edge is not wavy. It’s perfectly straight so it will scrape the bacteria off more smoothly. The blade is thicker as well.
There are a couple of cons I found with this model. First, the handle is shorter than the one on the GUM model so there’s a bit more reaching involved to get to the back of the tongue. Second, there is no brush on the back for more thorough cleaning. I liked the addition of the brush on the GUM scraper. Again, another con is simply related to the material. Plastic lacks the bacteria killing punch of copper or the durability of stainless steel.
So, you might be wondering why I am including a tongue brush on a list of tongue scrapers. Well, as I previously mentioned, the GUM scraper came with a brush. It is now worth mentioning both tongue brushes and the benefits they bring.
Tongue brushes work on the same principles as tongue scrapers. They use a hard material such as plastic to mechanically scrape off the bacteria that cause bad breath. Granted, they are a much newer invention but they are just as effective. A study from 2008 showed that tongue brushes work about as well as tongue scrapers do.
I chose the TUNG Brush for a few reasons. One, it has an extremely long handle. It can get at any part of the tongue with no problem. Two, it has a nice, wide brush head. It covers a good amount of tongue surface. Three, the bristles are gentle enough to get into the natural creases in the tongue that a traditional scraper might miss.
I found a couple cons with this tongue brush. Unlike tongue scrapers, there isn’t a lot of proven trial and use behind the brushes. They might not be as effective as traditional scrapers. Also, the repeated brushing action is fairly harsh on the tongue. I actually noticed my tongue bled a couple of times after using. If you opt for a brush over a scraper, be very gentle and cautious when first using.
Best Tongue Scraper Wrap Up
Problems with bad breath can be really, really embarrassing. It can really be a conversation ender. Luckily there are solutions to bad breath, such as grabbing yourself the best tongue scraper out on the market.
From ancient Rome to India, tongue scrapers have been used for thousands of years. What the ancients didn’t realize, however, is that they were working at the true source of bad breath. Only recently has science discovered that the germs living on your tongue release by products which cause most bad breath problems.
Tongue scrapers remove these bacteria and thus, remove the source of bad breath. The choice of tongue scraper (or brush for that matter) comes down to material and style preferences. Copper, plastic, stainless steel and brushes all have their pros and cons. I tried to create a list of scrapers which represented the best of each type of scraper or brush.
Bad breath doesn’t have to be a lasting problem. If you make the small investment into a tongue scraper and include it as part of your daily dental health routine, then you will have a cleaner mouth and fresher breath.