Let Me Introduce You to the Tongue Cleaner—Part of Ayurveda’s Daily Oral Routine

Let Me Introduce You to the Tongue Cleaner—Part of Ayurveda’s Daily Oral Routine

A housekeeper approached me at a spiritual retreat (that was attended by mostly Indians) and asked, “What are all of those curved metal things in all of your bathrooms?”

I chuckled at the question because the tongue cleaner is as basic as a toothbrush in Ayurveda. It is a must-have. For those who clean their tongues daily, forgetting their tongue cleaner is as unsettling as forgetting the toothbrush. It is mentioned right next to tooth brushing and oil pulling in the classical Ayurvedic text, Caraka Samhita.1

Why Cleaning the Tongue Matters

So, why the emphasis? In the western sciences, dentists appreciate post-nasal drip as the cause of bad breath. The post-nasal drip coats the back of the tongue with mucus that is rich in dying, bad bacteria, resulting in volatile sulfur compounds that create bad breath.2

In Ayurveda, we recognize the coating on the back of the tongue as much more than that. 

The white coating is what we call ama (natural toxins). Bacteria and mucus can certainly be ama. But any toxin that has that sticky and heavy quality, causing dysfunction in the body, is ama. So, while post-nasal drip is undoubtedly one cause of the white coating, there are many people with white tongues who have absolutely no post-nasal drip.

Our tongue represents our entire gastrointestinal tract and what is going on there. As the body processes the toxins and puts them back into the gastrointestinal tract for elimination, it also spits them out onto the tongue.

Furthermore, oral bacteria are associated with the health of a number of other systems, including the heart, lungs, reproductive tissues, and pancreas, and even health during pregnancy.3

The Benefits of Using a Metal Tongue Cleaner

One study compared a traditional tongue cleaner (which they called a tongue scraper) with a toothbrush. They found that the tongue scraper decreased volatile sulfur compounds by 75% as opposed to 45% with the toothbrush.4

But again, bad breath is only one benefit of scraping your tongue with a tongue cleaner. Doing so will support your entire body by helping maintain a healthy bacterial environment in the mouth and by stimulating the cleansing of the entire gastrointestinal tract.

It is also a great way to stay in touch with your overall health. By remembering to clean your tongue daily, you will quickly get into the habit of taking note of the coating on your tongue. You may notice a thicker coat after a heavy meal, sickness, or after eating a lot of dairy products the night before.

If a tongue cleaner is not right next to your toothbrush and floss and is not already part of your daily routine, now is the time to start!

About the Author

Vrinda Devani, MD, AP

Vrinda Devani, MD, has a passion for women's health and empowering women towards vibrant health and living. She is a believer in unfolding the...

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1 Charaka. Caraka Samhita. 7 vols. Translated by Dr. Ram Karan Sharma and Vaidya Bhagwan Dash, vol 1, Sutrasthana (Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 2009), chap 5, ver. 78-80

2 Nall, Rachel. “Tongue Scraping: 5 Benefits, Side Effects, Using a Spoon, and More.” Healthline. Healthline Media, March 8, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/tongue-scraping#benefits 

3 “Mayo Clinic Staff. “Oral Health: A Window to Your Overall Health.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, June 4, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475

4 Pedrazzi, Vinícius, Sandra Sato, Maria da de Mattos, Elza Helena Lara, and Heitor Panzeri. “Tongue-Cleaning Methods: A Comparative Clinical Trial Employing a Toothbrush and a Tongue Scraper.” Journal of Periodontology 75, no. 7 (July 2004): 1009–12. https://doi.org/10.1902/jop.2004.75.7.1009