Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tongue cleaner

Tongue scraper

Tongue brush

A tongue cleaner (also called a tongue scraper or tongue brush) is an oral hygiene device designed to clean the bacterial build-up, food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. The bacteria and fungi that grow on the tongue are related to many common oral care and general health problems. In addition, decaying bacteria produce volatile sulphur compounds on the rear of the tongue; these molecules are the main cause of halitosis (bad breath).

tongue cleaner


The top surface of the tongue can be cleaned using a tongue cleaner, a tongue brush/scraper or a toothbrush. However, toothbrushes are not effective for this purpose because they are designed for brushing the teeth, which have a solid structure unlike the spongy tissue of the tongue. Ergonomic tongue cleaners are shaped in accordance with the anatomy of the tongue, and are optimized to lift and trap the plaque coating and effectively clean the surface of the tongue. There are many different types of tongue cleaners; they are made from plastic, metal or other materials. Their effectiveness varies widely depending on the shape, dimensions, configuration and quality of the contact surfaces and materials used. The use of the tongue cleaner is recommended before eating, and not after. This prevents the toxic build-up on the tongue from getting swallowed along with food and liquids. A kitchen spoon may also be used to get the same effect.

Historical background

Regarding the origins of tongue cleaning, it is known that they have been used since ancient times in India and China.

Ayurveda, the practice of traditional Indian medicine, recommends tongue cleaning as part of one's daily hygiene regimen, to remove the toxic debris, known as Ama.

In the 19th century, people were also using specially designed, handcrafted tongue cleaners made of sterling silver, ivory and tortoise shell.

Importance of tongue cleaning

Fresh breath

Tongue cleaning is meant to remove some of the millions of bacteria (up to 500 different types ), decaying food debris, fungi (such as Candida), and dead cells, from the surface of the rear of the tongue. Tongue cleaning is generally viewed as the solution for most cases of halitosis, or bad breath. Scientific studies have shown that in approximately 80-95% of cases, bad breath originates in the oral cavity, mainly from material on the rear of the tongue. Research shows that only the rest of about 5-20% of cases originate in the stomach, from the tonsils, from decaying food stuck between the teeth, gum disease, tooth decay, or plaque accumulated on the teeth. Clinical studies have shown that using tongue cleaners on a daily basis has a significant effect on eliminating anaerobic bacteria and decreasing oral malodor.

Better oral hygiene

It is estimated that approximately 70% of the bacteria in the oral cavity thrives on the surface of the human tongue. These microorganisms colonize and multiply on the protein-rich areas of the tongue, and eventually, through the saliva, reach all areas of the mouth including the teeth and gums. These bacteria are considerable contributors to periodontal problems, plaque on the teeth, tooth decay, gum infections, gum recession and even tooth loss.

General health

Oral bacteria are associated with a number of serious systemic diseases.

  • Cardiovascular problems (heart attack, cerebral stroke),
  • Pneumonia due to inhaling bacteria present in the mouth,
  • Premature birth, and low fetus weight at birth time,
  • Increased risk of diabetes patients,
  • Osteoporosis of the jaw and generalized,
  • Infertility problems for men.

Alternative medicine

Cleaning the tongue with an appropriately designed tongue cleaner also massages the tongue. This is an important element of traditional Chinese medicine where the tongue surface is identified as an important reflexogenic zone.

Tongue cleaning improves the sense of taste (because of cleaning the taste buds) and also stimulates the secretions of digestive enzymes.

Who recommends tongue cleaning

  • Dental professionals
  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Halitosis specialists
In the past several years, dental professionals (dentists and hygienists) have emphasized the importance of tongue cleaning as a way to maintain a high level of oral hygiene. In addition, physicians have rediscovered the link between oral health and pathologies of the rest of the body, one which was prevalent in the medical field in the early part of the 20th century. Breath specialists generally agree that the majority of cases of halitosis (bad breath) come from the rear of the tongue, an area that can be cleaned efficiently by using an ergonomically designed tongue cleaner.

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