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Bad breath: Could a tongue scraper help?

Tongue scrapers, which are available in most drugstores in various shapes and sizes, have been touted as a way to reduce or eliminate bad breath (halitosis). You put the tongue scraper at the back of your tongue and gently bring it forward along your tongue, repeating as often as needed.

Research on the effectiveness of tongue scrapers is limited. What's been published so far describes tongue scraping as temporarily effective for bad breath, but there's not enough evidence that using a tongue scraper helps with ongoing (chronic) halitosis.

However, if you have a coated tongue — a buildup of debris, bacteria and dead cells on your tongue — tongue scraping may be helpful. A coated tongue can be caused by smoking, dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, yeast infection or medication use.

Although there's no harm in trying a tongue scraper to treat bad breath, it's just as important to practice good dental hygiene overall:

  • Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day, as soon as possible after you eat.
  • Rinse or gargle with water or mouthwash.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dry mouth, a cause of bad breath.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups.

If bad breath continues, consult your dentist. He or she can identify the cause and help develop a treatment plan.

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