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It’s a little bit awkward to write about tongue cleaners. But, I have to say, I’ve become so obsessed with mine that I literally want to shout from the rooftop of my condo just how rewarding a decent tongue cleaner is.
This obsession of mine is fairly new. While visiting my dentist last year for teeth cleaning, he suggested I start using a tongue cleaner to help improve the state of my mouth when the drills and liquids the professionals use are not at my disposal. I was open to the concept of a tongue cleaner, but to put it rather bluntly, the thought of placing a foreign tool deep in my mouth was making me want to gag before I started. Still, I don’t take oral health lightly, so I took my dentist's advice and went home that day with a complimentary tongue cleaner.
To avoid any confusion, tongue cleaners are often referred to as tongue scrapers, too. But for the sake of this article, and our collective ick-factors, I am going to refer to them as strictly — cleaners. My dentist started me off with the Supersmile Ripple Edge Tongue Cleaner ($14), a plastic cleaner that I fell in love with. Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me, and I began exploring other options. I landed on the Basic Concepts Stainless Steel Tongue Cleaner, which is currently on sale for $11, and wasn’t disappointed with that option either. Who knew tongue cleaners could be so versatile! Well, I guess I do now.
What is a tongue cleaner?
A tongue cleaner is an additional dental tool that works with your toothbrush to rid your tongue of bacteria left behind after brushing. They come in various materials and designs and are often available in multi-packs so you can share them with your family or limit the volume of replacements you have to purchase.
SHOP IT: Amazon, $14
What I like best about the Supersmile Ripple Edge tongue cleaner is how easy it is to travel with. You can toss this flat, plastic tongue cleaner into any makeup bag and take it with you anywhere, which gets a bit trickier with its stainless steel competitors. The ripple edge tongue cleaner is made from plastic and is free of parabens, sulphates, silica, animal by-products and harsh bleaching chemicals. At first glance, you might be confused about how it works, but it’s super easy. Just grab each end and bend the stripe in a U-shape with the ridges down. The ridges will do the heavy lifting here, so how far back you choose to place the tongue cleaner and the amount of pressure you apply will matter.
ALSO SEE: 13 ways to fix your bad breath
Speaking of pressure, you may feel the urge to go hard to scrape away the gunk on your tongue, but it’s essential that you use a soft motion to avoid cutting your tongue with the ridges. Gently swipe the cleaner from back to front, and don’t forget to rinse off the debris in the water as you go. Once your cleaner no longer shows a glob of bacteria-infused salvia — you’re safe to assume you got it all. I think this tongue cleaner was an excellent option for my first attempt. It seemed less invasive than the other models out there, and it was easy to use. Just remember to replace the cleaner every three months to keep additional unwanted bacteria at bay.
SHOP IT: Amazon, $31
Switching to a stainless steel tongue cleaner was a game-changer, and the Basic Concepts steel tongue cleaner proved to be a great value for the price-point. I have to admit — I was a bit intimidated by this contraption at first. It’s much bigger than its plastic counterparts, and it looks like a tool reserved only for dentists when you visit. Still, I had to know if it made a difference, so one brave night, I decided to give it a go instead of reaching for old faithful. And folks, I was immediately hooked.
I don’t pretend to know how, but the stainless steel version of the tongue cleaner somehow grabs far more bacteria than the plastic version ever could, and the method for cleaning is the same; only the steel option is already in a convenient U-shape. I was both delighted and disgusted by the result, and I haven’t switched back to plastic since. It’s also very easy to clean and is less likely to build up unwanted germs after use. The stainless steel option is also rust-free, so you won’t have to replace it as often as the other tools on the market.
How a tongue cleaner works
Going the extra mile to clean your tongue will help you rid the skin of extra particles that your toothbrush often can't combat. Tongue cleaning tools are used to pull the particles off of your tongue in a gentle manner, allowing you to rinse the tool off and repeat the process until you’re satisfied.
The benefits of tongue cleaning include improving your sense of taste, removing bacteria, and helping to improve your breath. However, it’s important to note that while a tongue cleaner is a wonderful tool for your overall oral health — it’s not a miracle worker. You’ll still need to brush and floss regularly to reap the rewards.
I am so happy with my stainless steel tongue cleaner that I will fight through exhaustion just to make sure I don’t skip using it after I brush my teeth at night, and if by chance, I do skip it, I will notice the difference the minute I wake up. And if I am all the way honest, I once skipped my tongue cleaning and found myself waking up in the middle of the night to deal with my mistake. The satisfaction that comes from extracting the germs off of your tongue can only be compared to that of popping a pimple. You feel a giant sigh of relief when you know that your breath is less deadly than you assumed because you made every effort to dispose of the goodies you consumed that day. I’d also like to point out that you may feel overwhelmed the first time you clean your tongue with one of these tools. It almost feels like years of grime are being pulled from your system, and the urge to do it over and over is satisfying and unrated. Even though each tongue cleaning brings me an absurd amount of joy, there really is nothing like your first time.