Looking after our oral health mainly involves brushing our teeth and flossing regularly. However, some users on social media platform TikTok have been arguing that “tongue scraping” should also be a permanent fixture in our oral hygiene routine. So, what is tongue scraping, and is it effective at curing bad breath?

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Most of us know that in order to keep our oral health strong, brushing and flossing regularly are the main activities. Moreover, getting regular check-ups is important too.

However, according to some users on social media platform TikTok, this isn’t enough. Many have suggested that a “Tongue Scraper” is also an essential part of oral health [1].

But what actually is tongue scraping? Moreover, is it helpful? There has been some research carried out on tongue scraping, which can aid our understanding of the practice and its effectiveness.

What is tongue scraping?

Social media platform TikTok is incredibly popular. While TikTok can be informative, it has the potential to be damaging in many ways. One such example concerns how many vulnerable users end up damaging their teeth due to oral health “advice” given on the app by various users.

One recent craze on TikTok involves tongue scrapers. Tongue scraping is nothing new – with it being a regular practice in many parts of the world for many years. However, it has had limited exposure in the western world.

Tongue scraping involves running an instrument across the tongue, with the aim of removing the build-up of bacteria and other debris. Moreover, tongue scraping can remove the white coating that builds up on the back of the tongue.

While some people use their toothbrush to clean their tongue, others use specialized instruments. These can be easily purchased – whether online, through a chemist or a pharmacist.

TikTok contains many tongue scraping videos. Many people on there claim that tongue scraping can stop bad breath [1]. But what does the science say?

The causes of bad breath

Some claim that tongue scraping stops bad breath. Every person has an oral microbiome – which is a community in the mouth of living bacteria, fungi, and in some cases, viruses [1].

The bacteria is able to stick to the tongue and build-up over time, creating something called a biofilm – with plaque an example of a biofilm [1]. When bacteria builds up, tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath are all common consequences.

In fact, there are particular types of bacteria that are linked to bad breath. For instance, volatile sulphur compound (VSCs) producing bacteria is a very common type of bacteria linked to bad breath [1].

Can tongue scraping stop bad breath?

The research towards tongue scraping is largely positive. For example, one study found that tongue scraping was more effective for treating bad breath compared to brushing alone. The research found that a key element of this was that tongue scrapers were able to reduce the release of VSC bacteria [2].

However, a key point to make is that this research found that the benefits were only short-term. Instead, the researchers found that tongue scraping needed to be done using a certain technique in order for it to be effective [2].

It turns out that scraping your tongue either once or twice a day for 15-30 seconds is adequate. Moreover, scraping towards the back of the tongue is important – as this helps to target where most of the VSC bacteria resides [1]. Furthermore, scraping back to front provides the maximum benefits.

But it is important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss every night. As this combination can help to improve your oral health. Therefore, it is important to remember if you do not complete the basics of toothbrushing and flossing, tongue scraping can only provide limited benefits.

However, it is crucial to note that VSC bacteria isn’t the only cause of bad breath. As discussed, tooth decay impacts breath. Moreover, tonsillitis and acid reflux can also play a role [1]. Therefore, tongue scraping doesn’t guarantee better breath.

Then there is also the consideration that not all bacteria is necessarily bad. For example, some types of bacteria – such as nitrate-reducing bacteria – can boost our health [1]. Tongue scraping increases the risk of this “good” bacteria being removed.

Then there are also some risks involved too. If a person uses a tongue scraper too aggressively, then cutting the tongue is a possibility – which can be incredibly painful.


Based on the conclusions above, it could be argued that tongue scraping can have a positive impact on bad breath. But as discussed, this impact is limited, with many factors being involved.

No qualified dentist would entirely recommend using tongue scrapers, as there is limited evidence to support their use. But it is certainly worth discussing them with your dentist at a check-up.

It is important to always exert caution when it comes to videos on the internet. While tongue scrapers have the potential to work, using a certain technique is important. But above all, looking after your oral health in terms of brushing and flossing is a great way to look after your oral health, and try and stave off the threat of bad breath.

Thinking points…

[1] Do you have children that are in their teens? If so, there is a high chance that they use TikTok on a regular basis. With this in mind, they are exposed to a lot of misinformation about teeth. You could share this article with them and engage in a wider conversation with them in terms of the importance of oral health and ignoring wild claims and dental “hacks” they see on the internet. You could share this article with them now!

[2] Following on from the above, there are numerous ways of reminding your child of the importance of oral health. One of the best ways of doing this is to attend a regular dental check-up with your child. In fact, you could both go together and get check-ups at the same time. This will keep the oral health for both of you strong! We recommend booking an appointment for both you and your child now!

What we offer at Taradale Dental

Taradale Dental is a dental clinic based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. At our Calgary dental clinic, we provide a range of services for our patients.

We advise our patients to attend our Calgary dental clinic at least twice per year for a regular dental check-up. At these check-ups, we provide a comprehensive review of a patient’s oral health. If any problems are detected, we have many treatments available. For example, these include cavity fillings and root canals. To strengthen your oral health, we recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly.

Here at Taradale Dental, we also have some cosmetic treatments available! These include dental implants, teeth whitening and Invisalign™! Our patients find that these treatments have a positive impact on their appearance, confidence and self-esteem.

Moreover, the fees of our treatments at our Calgary dental clinic Taradale Dental are set in line with the Alberta Dental Fee Guide. This ensures transparent and fair pricing, with no hidden costs.

We hope to see you soon at our Taradale Dental clinic in Calgary! You can find out more about us by visiting our website https://taradaledental.ca/!


[1] Brookes, Z. (2024). TikTok claims ‘tongue scrapers’ can cure bad breath – here’s what the evidence actually says. Available: https://theconversation.com/tiktok-claims-tongue-scrapers-can-cure-bad-breath-heres-what-the-evidence-actually-says-225040. Last accessed: 16th March 2024.

[2] Outhouse, T. L., Al-Alawi, R., Fedorowicz, Z., & Keenan, J. V. (2006). Tongue scraping for treating halitosis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD005519.pub2/