In certain New York social circles that I know well—ones that preach the virtues of oil-pulling and raw food diets—tongue-scraping is considered as necessary a morning ritual as brushing your teeth.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical, posits that “scraping your tongue front to back once daily is believed to remove pathogens from your mouth, boosting your immune system,” says Victoria Moreno, M.D. an integrative doctor at the Morrison Center in New York, who blends eastern and western philosophies in her work. “It also clears your taste buds, which can in turn help you make better food choices.” Bonus!
Although Dr. Moreno doesn’t prescribe that her patients do it every day unless they have a more specific ailment such as thrush (an overgrowth of yeast), she says it can’t hurt. In fact—it feels really, really good. That’s why, a few times a week, I ever-so-gently (this is important) clean my tongue with a scraper. It’s an incredibly satisfying activity, like excavating a blackhead from a pore.
In Ayurveda, Dr. Moreno says, practitioners use metal scrapers, made with materials like copper that are anti-bacterial and therefore better for removing bad bacteria. But I’ve been using a plastic one from Supersmile ($9 for a set of 3; supersmile.com); it’s simple enough to clean it with hot water after use and the ergonomic shape makes it easy to cover the whole tongue without having to re-scrape too many times, a safeguard against overdoing it. Even though I’m not using a scraper every day, knock on wood, I’ve managed to stay pretty healthy this winter. Sure, it could be a placebo effect—but I’ll take it regardless.