I've always struggled with bad breath. Could a tongue scraper help?

Answers from Alan Carr, D.M.D.

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 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, which can occur from an overgrowth of bacteria, tongue scraping may be helpful. For instance, a coated tongue can be caused by smoking, dry mouth, poor oral hygiene 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 after you eat.
  • 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.

Nov. 06, 2012