Over the years I’ve tested a variety of different tongue scrapers — copper, steel, plastic; you name it.
I’ve also tested the tongue cleaning functionality on various toothbrushes.
In this post I give my advice on which tools are best, based on my own hands-on testing.
I’ve also created a buyer’s guide to explain a bit more about the different options.
Best for a soft scrape: Dentek Comfort Tongue Cleaner / Amazon / ~$29.77
Best all-metal: Health&Yoga Stainless Steel / Amazon / ~$8.95
Having tried the best-selling scrapers and brushes on the market, I found drTung’s to offer the best overall experience, when taking into consideration the price, design, and effectiveness of the clean.
One of the most widely regarded and highest rated tongue cleaners available today, drTung’s tongue cleaner is made from stainless steel with a curved cleaning edge.
The shape of the cleaner is somewhere between a U and a V, with thick rubber grips on the end of the stainless steel to act like handles.
There is a nice degree of flex in the material and although steel by its very makeup is strong, it is not too rigid.
It's thick enough that it does not feel too sharp (in my opinion) when pulled along, but not so thick that there is no scraping sensation.
The handles can be used as grips as you pull the cleaner from the back of the tongue to the front and can be used either one handed or two handed. Two hands gives a little more control.
I did not get a choice of coloured rubber grips, but depending on where you buy it you may do.
The simple design and metal construction means that you do not need to replace it regularly, and in fact, it can last for years.
To clean it a simple rinse under warm water or a wipe with a cloth will suffice.
Best for a softer scrape
The DenTek Comfort Clean Tongue Cleaner is plastic in construction and is certainly softer on the tongue. This is useful if you do not like the harsher scraping provided by the metal options.
With a handle much like a traditional toothbrush, the head is essentially circular with 3 scraping edges that run along the surface of the tongue.
It comes neatly packaged with clear instructions on how to use it.
The scraper has a ‘mint’ flavour to the scraping edges. I could smell this when held under the nose, but noticed no taste transfer to the tongue during the time I was using it. Whether it had affect on my breath was impossible for me to tell.
Whilst the mint flavour was still noticed after my 3 weeks of testing, I can’t really say that this will persist over a longer period.
The head itself covers a large area of the tongue and perhaps would require less repetitive strokes as the 3 scraping edges mimic this in many respects. It does feel a little flimsy and although it is not going to break unless excessive force is used, over time the head may become weaker than the metal alternatives.
Best long-handled tongue scraper
Out of all the scrapers the Orabrush Tongue Cleaner Fresh Breath Brush With Scraper won the tickle test. I found it the least comfortable to use initially.
You certainly do become used to it, but the number of bristles that scrape along the tongue surface created a sensation that felt a bit strange.
The combination of bristles and scraper work well to clean the tongue. With this scraper I had the feeling I had really had put some effort into cleaning our tongue, but the sensation appeared to last longer.
The scraper is much like a normal toothbrush, but the head is much wider and there is a different bristle arrangement to normal toothbrushes.
The handle was certainly strong and felt like it would stand the test of time.
The recommendation from DenTek, the manufacturer of Orabrush, is to replace this every 3-4 months, roughly the same time you would replace a manual toothbrush or an electric toothbrush head.
Whilst this is certainly feasible, the long term cost certainly makes this a more expensive option compared to the longer lasting options available today. In fact it is more expensive than most manual toothbrushes or electric toothbrush heads.
Best all-metal tongue scraper
The simplistic nature of the HealthAndYoga scraper really won me over.
This scraper is an all-metal construction, like drTung’s, and there are nicely rounded handles/grips at the two ends compared to the rubber with drTungs. Whilst the rubber tips are easier to hold onto, especially when wet, the end of the scraper tends not to be too exposed to moisture and as such poses little issue.
Made of stainless steel, the packaging clearly labeled this as ‘surgical steel’. The difference? Well truthfully none.
Surgical steel is often used as a marketing term that applies typically to a particular grade of stainless steel, but there is no official classification of what is surgical steel compared to normal stainless steel. However, these different ‘grades’ do relate to the makeup of the steel with ‘surgical steel’ often meeting grade 316 that helps minimise metallic contamination compared to the 440 and 420 grade that is often used in cutlery.
It is not clear what grade of metal is used in drTung’s scraper to be able to compare. I would be inclined to believe it is 316 but not marketed in this way.
Simple but effective packaging, the tongue cleaner does not come with any travel pouch and of the metal scrapers tested, the edges were slightly more rounded and felt to the touch softer, although the strength of the steel means that it still offered a firm scrape.
There was certainly flex in the metal but not to the extreme of the others. It was the most likely to spring back to its original shape.
There is no denying that this would stand the test of time well and I have no reservations in suggesting that this will be as good in 12 months as it is the moment it comes out the packaging. Perhaps this is why it is the most expensive of all the scrapers tested.
Why clean your tongue?
Most of us know we should clean our teeth twice a day for 2 minutes, whether we do or not is another matter. But what about tongue cleaning?!
Coming into contact with liquids and food stuffs just like your teeth, the tongues textured surface holds onto food debris just as much as your teeth.
The front or the tip of the tongue is relatively self cleaning compared to the back part of it which is limited in its contact to naturally cleanse itself. As a result, bacteria builds up on the tongue.
So if you suffer from bad breath regularly or even occasionally physically cleaning your tongue with a scraper will go a long way to helping resolve the problem. In fact, a study by Pedrazi showed a 75% reduction in the volatile sulphur compounds when using a tongue scraper.
Although removing the bacteria and food debris from the tongue will help reduce bad breath, there is no evidence that it reduces the risk of dental decay or gum disease.
What is a tongue scraper?
A tongue scraper comes in a couple of forms, both of which have the same intention; to remove a thing mucus-based layer of debris from the tongue.
More often than not the scraper is made from a soft flexible plastic and has a design similar to a conventional manual toothbrush, but rather than a small head with lots of bristles it has a larger often rounded design with one or two plastic scrapers running horizontally to the rounded head frame.
The alternative design for a tongue scraper is more traditional and more rudimentary looking; a thin piece of machined metal, usually stainless steel or copper, that has been formed into a "U" or "V" shape. It relies on the rounded but strong edge of the metal to scrape away the debris effectively.
Tongue brushes also exist. They share a larger sized head like a scraper, but have less bristles than a normal toothbrush and are often made from a soft rubber.
Do tongue scrapers work?
Yes, they do.
The American Dental Association suggests there is no real evidence to say that a tongue scraper works better than a brush.
But these studies suggested that by using a soft bristled toothbrush, there is some 30% variance in the effectiveness. A toothbrush is said to remove only 45% of the sulphur compounds.
This said, one of the most popular tongue cleaners on the market today, the Orabrush, is a brush design, but interestingly has a scraper included as part of that design.
Some electric toothbrushes have a tongue cleaning mode encouraging you to use your normal toothbrush head rather than a scraper. You can usual a manual toothbrush too.
Ultimately any cleaner, be that a scraper, tongue brush or a normal toothbrush head, are more useful to you and your breath than not cleaning your tongue at all.
Those who suffer with bad breath will likely see greater benefit from a scraper. Tongue cleaning takes just a few extra seconds each day and can make a big difference.
How to clean your tongue
To clean your tongue, you need to follow a very simple process that consists of just 7 steps:
- Stick out your tongue as far as possible.
- Using a mirror look for areas of the tongue with the most buildup of debris. Normally at the centre and back of the tongue. It is generally a white colour.
- Place your tongue scraper or brush onto the tongue, being sure to target the area most-affected.
- Press down gently with the scraper or brush and pull the cleaner from the back toward the tip of the tongue.
- Rinse the scraper clean under a running tap to remove removed debris.
- Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 until no more debris can be removed.
- If desired, rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash.
These are demonstrated in the following video.