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A tongue cleaner (also called a tongue scraper or tongue brush) is an oral hygiene device designed to clean the bacterial build-up, food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue. The bacteria and fungi that grow on the tongue are related to many common oral care and general health problems. In addition, decaying bacteria produce volatile sulphur compounds on the rear of the tongue; these molecules account for 80 to 95 percent of all cases of halitosis (bad breath).
The top surface of the tongue can be cleaned using a tongue cleaner, a tongue brush/scraper or a toothbrush. However, toothbrushes are not considered as effective for this purpose because they are designed for brushing the teeth, which have a solid structure unlike the spongy tissue of the tongue.
Ergonomic tongue cleaners are shaped in accordance with the anatomy of the tongue, and are optimized to lift and trap the plaque coating and effectively clean the surface of the tongue. There are many different types of tongue cleaners; they are made from plastic, metal or other materials. Their effectiveness varies widely depending on the shape, dimensions, configuration, quality of the contact surfaces and materials used. In addition, tongue cleaning gels used in association with the tongue cleaners as antibacterial agents may enhance cleaning effects.
Tongue cleaning was performed by the Romans, and was recorded in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Tongue scrapers came on the modern commercial market in 1951.
Ayurveda, the practice of traditional Indian medicine, recommends tongue cleaning as part of one's daily hygiene regimen, to remove the toxic debris, known as Ama. Tongue scrapers are common drugstore items in Pakistan and India.
Tongue cleaning removes a portion of the bacteria, decaying food debris, fungi (such as Candida), and dead skin cells from the rear surface of the tongue. Tongue cleaning aims at treating halitosis, or bad breath. Some limited studies have shown that it is the bacteria on the tongue which often produce malodorous compounds and fatty acids that may account for 80%-95% percent of all cases of bad breath. The remaining 5–20% of cases originate in the stomach, from the tonsils, from decaying food stuck between the teeth, gum disease, tooth decay, or plaque accumulated on the teeth.
Clinical studies have shown that using a tongue cleaner on a daily basis is able to help reduce anaerobic bacteria and decrease oral malodor. Dental specialists generally assume that a majority of cases of halitosis originate on the back of the tongue.
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- Bad breath (Halitosis) - FAQ ADA, Oral Health Topicz A-Z