Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size

Bad Breath Banishers Battle It Out

Review: Tongue Scrapers 'Slightly' Beat Toothbrushes in Curbing Bad Breath
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Researchers recently reviewed two studies that pitted tongue scrapers against toothbrushes in curbing bad breath.

The results, published in The Cochrane Library, state that "tongue scrapers or cleaners are slightly more effective than toothbrushes as a means of controlling halitosis (bad breath) in adults."

However, the evidence was "weak and unreliable" and relief from bad breath "appeared to be very short lived," write the review's authors. They included Trent Outhouse, DDS, MS, ABGD, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy's Dental Corps serving in Bahrain.

Battling Bad Breath

Currently, there is "controversy" and "no standard and accepted protocols" for treating bad breath, the researchers write. Besides mechanical methods -- brushing or scraping the tongue -- strategies include using chemicals that attempt to destroy odor-forming bacteria and/or mask bad breath.

Outhouse and colleagues searched for high-quality scientific studies in which people with bad breath were randomly assigned to use tongue scrapers, toothbrushes, or mouthwashes to fight bad breath.

The researchers only found two short-term trials, neither of which included mouthwashes. Both trials excluded smokers and people with illnesses that might affect their breath's smell.

The studies both used machines to measure participants' levels of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are linked to bad breath. That way, results weren't based on personal opinions about breath quality.

Studying Bad Breath

One of the studies was done in Germany. It included 30 adults with high levels of volatile sulfur compounds.

Participants were assigned to use one of three devices to brush their tongues: a regular toothbrush, tongue scraper, or brush-scraper combination. Once a week for four weeks, participants had their VSC levels checked before and after a tongue-cleaning session.

VSC levels dropped 42% with the brush-scraper, 40% with the scraper, and 33% with the brush. But those reductions didn't last more than 30 minutes, according to the review.

The other study included 10 adults at Brazil's University of Sao Paolo. Participants cleaned their tongues with a tongue scraper one week and a soft-bristle toothbrush another week, taking a two-day break between treatments.

Before-and-after VSC tests showed that average VSC levels dropped 75% with the tongue scraper, compared with 45% with the toothbrush.

Six participants in the Brazilian study complained of nausea and one of tongue trauma while using the toothbrush. All were "receptive to the tongue scraper," the researchers write.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

big smile
Article
Man grinding teeth
Article
 
Close-up of toothbrush
Health Check
how your mouth impacts your health
Slideshow
 

are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
bpa dental sealants
Video
 
Healthy Mouth Slideshow
Video
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Video
 

15 myths and facts about cavities
Video
how healthy is your mouth
Video
 
elmo brushing teeth
fitVideo
5 ways to prevent diabetes dental problems
Video