It’s not just teeth that need regular cleaning. Prone to scores of bacterial growth, the tongue requires attention too. That’s where the most medieval-sounding way to remove mouth gunk comes into play: the tongue scraper.
Volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), aka bacteria that grow and feed off of food particles left inside the mouth, cause bad breath. While mouthwashes and breath mints can help neutralize the odor from these growths, brushing and flossing are the most effective ways to remove them. Tongue scraping can take dental hygiene a step further. A 2021 study out of the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that tongue scraping, while not a superior method to brushing, is equally as effective at reducing bad breath and bacterial tongue coating.
As a SPY editor, I care deeply about my dental health, and I’m not going to stick just anything in my mouth on a daily basis. In order to find the best tongue scraper on the market, I ordered five of the most popular options on Amazon, all “dentist-recommended” brands, to see how they fared at ridding my tongue of superfluous gunk.
Tongue Scrapers: The Testing Process
I spent a month reviewing the five scrapers, using each one over the course of a week during my regular dental routine. As I raked each one across my taste buds, I was looking for a few key factors: the feel and durability of the tool, how effectively it removed tongue slime, and whether or not I’d use it again. Also, can these things hurt you? Or cut you?
I used the scrapers at the same time of day (right before bed), so roughly the same amount of bacteria had accumulated after three square meals. After removing the excess particles with each scraper, I realized that it was possible for a tongue to experience benefits tantamount to a good topical peel. The surface felt cleansed, renewed, and ready for the next activity.
After over a month of testing, I’m not sold that tongue scrapers are absolutely necessary, but with the right tool, they’re a satisfying addition to a dental hygiene routine. For those who get pleasure from scrubbing dried-on gunk from a cast iron pan or ridding a windshield of bug guts, choosing a tongue scraper from the picks will probably be rewarding.
Gunkii Luxury Tongue Scraper
Gunkii is a great example of a luxury version of a household item that’s worth the premium price. The surgical-grade aluminum makes it feel more durable and of better quality than other options — and in this product category that goes a long way.
It’s flexible and doesn’t feel like it’s going to break while you’re using it. The sleek design is simple and a bit clinical, but once you stick it in your mouth the tongue coverage and slim profile work seamlessly. Unlike some of the other cheaper scrapers, this one didn’t feel like it was damaging the tongue and left it feeling clean without drying it out or irritating its surface. Out of all the tongue scrapers I tried, this is the one I’m keeping in my bathroom to use again.
MasterMedi Tongue Scraper
MasterMedi’s 2-pack was another favorite because it had just enough sharpness to make my tongue feel clean without feeling like I took a pumice stone to my mucosa.
This scraper feels heavy-duty, and durable, but is much more affordable than the Gunkii at $10 for a two-pack. It’s the heaviest of the bunch, by far, but the bottom knobs could be grippier if they were made of silicone rather than metal.
It comes in a storage case I used between trials to stash it in my drawer. It kept the gunk from getting everywhere, but I imagine with more prolonged use I’d have to clean it consistently.
MOST COMFORTABLE TO HOLD
Dr. Tung’s Tongue Cleaner
This is the sharpest tongue scraper of the bunch, by far. Its design packs a punch without a lot of pressure, but be careful while using it because it can cause small abrasions if you push down too hard.
The tongue heals quickly, but an injury defeats the purpose of cleaning it in the first place. If you’ve recently indulged in kettle-cooked potato chips, a toasted Dutch crunch roll, or your tongue is otherwise sensitive, I’d also recommend skipping a tongue scrape with this particular tool as it might hurt or cause unnecessary irritation.
The silicone grip is very comfortable to hold, and the wide design cleans the entire tongue in one fell swoop. Dr. Tung doesn’t mess around.
DenTek Tongue Cleaner
This tongue cleaner has a few redeeming qualities: it’s lightweight, easy to store due to its slimmer profile, and because it’s roughly the dimensions of a toothbrush it can be stored in the same place. It’s made with a plastic top, so it’s also gentler than the metal options on this list. For those with super-sensitive tongues, it might be worth it.
The positive things I have to say about it end there. This thing is a glorified piece of crap. It’s lightweight, sure, but it’s also incredibly cheap. It bends if you press too hard, and the plastic top doesn’t do nearly as much as the metal options. I scraped harder than I should have because I felt like nothing was happening, and it doesn’t cover the entire tongue so it takes multiple swipes to get the job done.
DON’T BUY THIS
GUM Dual Action Tongue Cleaner
This one is a bust. It’s extremely cheap, it bends when you’re using it, it doesn’t cover the whole tongue, and it has weird ridges on the scraper part that cause it to miss parts of the surface. I can see why this design element was added, as you’d think the texture would help the process, but there’s a reason why my top three picks all have roughly the same design principle: it works.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tongue Scrapers
Do tongue scrapers work?
Are tongue scrapers safe?
Are tongue scrapers worth it?
Can I use it on my dog?