Don’t Brush Your Tongue!

If you want to clean your tongue you need to scrape it.

Brush your tongue, brush your tongue, brush your tongue, is what you hear over and over. Perhaps the toothbrush companies began this campaign so your toothbrushes would wear out faster. Yes, you need to clean the bacteria from your tongue, especially if you’ve been sick, or use an inhaler, or have sinus issues, or because it feels good, but not with a toothbrush! It bugs me that “brush your tongue,” is told to kids, a habit formed at such a young age is hard to break. I believe in teaching kids proper techniques as early as possible which will carry through their lifetime. So, do not teach kids to brush their tongues.


Teach instead, to scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper. The filiform papillae are long and rough protrusions, which you can see in the enlarged tongue above. When you brush your tongue, you are merely brushing the bacteria right back into the papillae. The only way to dislodge the bacteria from the tongue’s surface is to scrape forward.

Tongue scraping alone is not the answer to halitosis (bad breath) and is a topic for another blog, Ordinary Mouthwash is Bad for Bad Breath. However, it can help with your taste buds and decreasing anaerobic or harmful bacteria. Tongue scrapers can come in different sizes in plastic or metal. I prefer metal because it’s easier to clean and a bit more sanitary than plastic because bacteria can be absorbed through plastic.

Click on image to purchase tongue scraper now

Dr. Tung’s scrapers are nice because you can get different color handles for everyone in the family.Tongue scrapers are very inexpensive, can last a long time, and are easy to use. Stick out your tongue and reach as far back as you can with the scraper, move it to the tip in one sweep without pressing too hard. Continue until you have scraped all the surfaces of your tongue.

Speaking of your tongue, never rinse with undiluted hydrogen peroxide. When I was in school I saw the most frightening tongue, it was black and the papillae looked like long fur strands. Appropriately, this is called black hairy tongue! After long term use of peroxide, the healthy bacteria are also killed, which are needed to maintain a healthy balance in your mouth. So, you don’t need to rinse with peroxide to clean your tongue, as it’ll kill too much on your tongue; use a tongue scraper instead. Scraping daily could also be overkill for the tongue as you can achieve benefits, under ordinary circumstances, with a good scraping a few times a week. I hope this helps you to replace “Brush your tongue,” with “Scrape your tongue.”

*This blog contains affiliate links for products Ask My Hygienist carefully recommends based on professional experience or personal use. These suggestions are to assist you in your quest for better oral health, and in turn, you're assisting our blog with the small commission we receive from your purchase.

Author: Cari

Cari has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years. She received her degree with honors and was selected for a rare internship at Eastman Dental School, Rochester, NY. She then went on to receive a BS in Social Work from Nazareth College, cum laude. She has practiced in a variety of offices in Santa Fe for almost 25 years, with dental hygiene experience that has spanned from public health to holistic private practice, to specializing in dental phobic patients. Her commitment to research with a life-long desire to learn is combined with her genuine drive to provide patients with a whole health knowledge base. Cari also brings her experience as a published writer to her role as an oral health blogger. She has written blogs and web pages for Beyond Borders Dental in her role as Director of Dental Relations and Education.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Brush Your Tongue!”

  1. Hello
    I really like your suggestions for tongue scraping vs.brushing..very enlightening.
    I was wondering if you know of any herbs or vitamins that could help with good bacteria that would also enhance your mouth health.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Judy,
      So happy you were enlightened by tongue scraping!!!! As far as vitamins for good bacteria, you would want to explore probiotics. Your gut bacteria has everything to do with your mouth bacteria as well as the PH in your mouth. There are also chewable and liquid probiotics which are great for your oral cavity. This question inspires a new blog topic, thank you very much!! Cari

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