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The Unsung Hero Of Healthy Habits: Tongue Scraping
These days traditional Hindu ayurvedic practices carry a lot of clout among the legions of DIY natural beauty lovers. But, unless you're penning or perusing beauty blogs all day, you may have missed the memo on the miraculous at-home ayurvedic remedy to banish morning breath: tongue scraping. The quick, simple, and extremely inexpensive ($7 for a tongue cleanser) at-home remedy is the unsung hero of oral health. It takes much less time and effort than oil pulling, which involves swishing oil around your mouth for 10 minutes or more, early in the morning before you've eaten or brushed your teeth. If you're not a morning person, that doesn't exactly sound like the most appealing way to wake up. Enter tongue scraping.
Finally! A Cure for Morning Breath
We all know about, and to some extent suffer from, morning breath. Am I the only one that performs a huge eye roll when movie lovebirds play kissy face immediately upon waking? No one is doing that in real life! (Get a grip, directors.) Well, it just so happens that tongue scraping is one of the best defenses against halitosis, period! And if you scrape regularly, especially before bed, your morning breath will be drastically reduced. Why? Think about it: It’s called “oral hygiene." So you brush your teeth, you floss your gums, but that big plush carpet that sits on the bottom of your mouth gets ignored? Actually, the soft, spongy, bumpy texture of the tongue is the perfect little breeding ground for bacteria—which is exactly what you'll be scraping off your tongue, along with various other toxins. This bacteria is odor-causing. So, the less bacteria, the less smell. Kim Shamoun, a veteran registered dental hygienist and fellow tongue scraping zealot, says “I can’t live without tongue scraping. Without a doubt, it should be a part of our daily oral hygiene regimen. I stress to my patients, friends, family and strangers alike how important it really is. A tongue scraper is the one thing I would want with me on a deserted island… forget the lipstick!”
More Reasons To Become A Tongue Scraping Enthusiast
Taste. Housing our taste buds is the tongue’s best-known role. But when your tongue is coated in gunk, your taste buds have no chance to fully enjoy that wild mushroom risotto, molten chocolate cake or any other delicious morsel. And decreased taste actually leads to decreased digestion.
Digestion. We all know that digestion begins in the mouth. Saliva is filled with enzymes that start breaking down food, not to mention chewing. The cleaner the mouth, the better you can taste your food (i.e., the more “mouth-watering” it is) and the better your digestion is! Plaque. The more soft plaque you have on your tongue, the more hard plaque will form on your teeth. This leads to—yup—bad breath, but also tooth decay! Every time I go for my biannual teeth cleaning, my dentist compliments me on my home oral care. She’s actually told me, “There’s really no plaque here for me to clean.” Thank you, tongue scraping! Immunity. Among its other functions, the tongue is part our immune system. The more bacteria you remove from it, the less chance there is of that bacteria getting into your body and causing health problems. Overall health. According to the Mayo Clinic, oral bacteria and poor oral hygiene are linked to several other diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even infertility. At less than a minute a day, tongue scraping is the ultimate time optimizing oral cure. You may read this and say, “I do clean my tongue, with my toothbrush!” Well, your heart’s in the right place, but you’ve got the wrong tool in your hand. “An ordinary toothbrush is not recommended; it does not remove the micro-organisms from the tongue properly,” says Shamoun. Just as the malleable surface of your multibristled toothbrush is optimal for cleaning the hard surface of your teeth, you need a solid surface to really clean the squishy surface of your tongue; and a stainless steel u-shaped tongue scraper is exactly that. My favorite is Dr. Tung’s stainless steel tongue scrapers, while Shamoun recommends Breath Rx.
A Basic Tongue Scraping How-to
While tongue scraping is extremely quick and simple, timing does matter. Ideally, you want to tongue scrape as soon upon waking as possible—before you’ve eaten anything, drank anything or brushed your teeth. Just open wide so you don’t hit your teeth with the scraper. Then, stick your tongue out and, starting from the back, glide the scraper over your entire tongue. Rinse it after each scrape. Do this at least five times, and/or until your scrapes come up clean. The cleaner the scrapes, the more gunk you've gotten off! You may want to do it in the bathroom mirror, over the sink at first, so you can make sure you are getting to the back of your tongue. Then, once you’re familiar with the feeling, you can do it sans mirror.
“The most posterior portion of the tongue collects the most buildup, so you really have to make sure you reach far back. The frequency should be a regular basis, morning and evening.” advises Shamoun. In addition to my morning scraping, I tongue scrape at bedtime, right before I brush my teeth. I’m appalled to see what accumulates on my tongue in the course of the day, but even more appreciative to get rid of it!
Interested in natural mouthcare? Here's an all-around guide to caring for your teeth, naturally. Plus: did you know that your green juice can be bad for your teeth? Read it and weep.
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