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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | October 16th, 2016


    It worked out well that that I had my routine dental checkup in October – National Dental Hygiene Month. After my appointment last week, I was given a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. I was reminded to brush my teeth at least twice a day, floss daily and schedule my next appointment in 6 months. No one talked to me about tongue scraping as part of my oral hygiene care.

    I was introduced to tongue scraping as a child when I would watch my mother scrape her tongue. I never took up the habit until I went to a Yoga retreat with my sister in 2014. Our yoga retreat included several Ayurveda*(see below) practices, one of which was tongue scraping as part of oral hygiene. We were expected to do it every morning prior to brushing our teeth. My sister and I did not have a tongue scraper so we used a metal spoon as a substitute.

    Tongue scraping:

    1. Reduces the toxins and bacteria in the tongue that causes bad breath
    2. Improves the taste of food
    3. Improves digestion
    4. Improves your immunity – my sister and I have noticed a decrease in getting colds

    The mouth is considered the ‘window to general health’. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory infection. In pregnant women, it has been linked to premature delivery and low birth weight. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, oral health disparities are profound in the United States. Despite major improvement in oral health for the population as a whole, oral health disparities exist for many racial and ethnic groups, by socioeconomic status, gender, age and geographic location.

    Studies have shown that using a tongue scraper for the tongue is more effective than using a toothbrush for the tongue. You want the tongue scraper to be stainless steel. The plastic one is not as effective. When I returned from the retreat, I bought my sister, my husband, and children a tongue scraper.  It has been part of my daily routine. I do it before I brush my teeth ( 5 times). And like me watching my mother, my children are slow to adopt it as a habit. I guess they are waiting to hear it from someone  else before they adopt the practice.

    Here are instructions on how to scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper (click here). You can substitute with a metal spoon initially.

    As part of National Dental Hygiene Month remember to:

    1. Use the tongue scraper
    2. Brush your teeth at least twice a day (think about changing your toothbrush every 3 months or after you have been sick)
    3. Floss daily (I know that there have been recent studies suggesting that there is no evidence that flossing helps, but it does not hurt)
    4. Get your routine dental checkup/cleaning twice a year
    5. Eat a healthy diet
    6. Avoid tobacco

    Dental care can be expensive, but it is extremely important. If you do not have dental insurance consider making an appointment at a dental school near you. They have students that need patients. These students are supervised by a senior physician. Also, you can google low cost or free dental care near you. Some dentists volunteer their time in community clinics to provide dental care.

    Cost of a tongue scraper is $7.00 – $ 10.00. 

    *Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine is a holistic (whole body) healing system developed thousands of years ago in India. The main focus is to promote good health rather than fight disease. In the United States it is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine.



    1. Chinwe Okpalaoka says:

      Dr. Ngozi, my tongue scraper from Banyan arrived this weekend and I have started using it. I can already feel (and taste) the difference. Thank you!!!

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