Does the thought of tongue scraping make you gag?

That was exactly my first reaction when presented with a metal tongue scraper by my Kenyan friend almost 30 years ago (to avoid any doubt, his name was not Barack).

At the time I was working for EMI Records in England (or Capitol Records as it’s better known in the States) — and therefore my job responsibilities meant a Groundhog Day of late night gigs, launch parties and dinners with Journalists, Artists and their Management. Not as fun as it sounds — just ask Phil Conners.

Since this was business nothing was done to excess — honestly.

But the modest alcohol, food (often very late at night) and smoking I felt I had to imbibe, over the course of the evening, all added up to a rich chemical cocktail, that invariably meant I ended up waking up with my mouth feeling rather like ‘the bottom of a birdcage’.

Cue my friend’s proffering of a tongue scraper to solve the issue. And it certainly worked.

Intrigued by my new best friend — I did a little research and discovered there was a rich and noble tradition to tongue scraping. Well the Romans and Hindus have been doing it for 2000 years — that makes it a tradition in my books.

And closer to home Founding Father and 1st President, George Washington, was a very keen tongue scraper. Do I detect some skepticism? Well you can still see his ornate scraper at Mount Vernon.

The science of tongue scraping went as follows; our tongues’ are fully one third of the surface area of the mouth, with a surface like a ‘deep pile carpet’ (hope you are comfortable with these 1970s colloquialisms). That makes it an excellent trap for food, alcohol, smoke and bacterial debris. That’s the raw material for creating bad breath and much worse overnight.

In short by the simple act of 2 or 3 scrapes of my tongue, prior to retiring to bed, I was able to remove the offending oral debris — before it offended me!

Then looking a little deeper at the dental and medical support I found credible and detailed research evidence to show that tongue cleaning can help reduce a welter of other issues; plaque (the plaque forming streptococci hide on the tongue), dental caries, heart disease and certain mouth cancers — as well as STDs.
Whilst by enhancing taste perception, particularly for the elderly, tongue scraping can even revive flagging taste buds and help counter fading appetites that afflict so many in old age — which can then lead to malnutrition.
On the lighter side a clean tongue will also enable your taste buds to better appreciate fine food and wine (if you are thinking of spending $200 on a rather decent Pauillac — it might be wise to ensure your tongue is in tip top condition if you want to get the most from the experience).

Not bad from a traditional routine that takes less than 10 seconds …

And that folks is why 30 years later I am still a tongue-scraping evangelist. Despite escaping my Punxsutawney lifestyle.

I’ve also taken a leaf out of George Washington’s playbook.

I’ve moved on from my cheap and wiry scraper bought for less than one Rupee in India — to a deluxe ‘AMANO Tongue Cleanser’ fittingly made in Italy and built to give loyal service for years.

Granted it is considerably more expensive than one Rupee, but to borrow a phrase; ‘My tongue’s worth it’.

References:

The Malnutrition Task Force: How to revive your taste buds

British Dental Journal: Give your tongues some TLC

AMANO medical benefits of tongue cleaning:

George Washington’s tongue scraper:

Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry: ‘The role of taste and smell in appetite’ (Maury Massler D.D.S. M.S.)

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