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Gillian Mandich of MindBodyGreen writes in 5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs A Tongue Scraper:

The tongue is part of the first line of defense in your immune system. Scraping your tongue prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into your body and boosts overall immune function.

Is there evidence that it's possible to improve the functioning of the immune system in that way?

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There is little to no evidence supporting the claim that regular tongue scraping improves anything except bad breath and oral hygiene; however, very little research has been done to credit or discredit such treatment.

Let's examine the talking point in her article, 5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs A Tongue Scraper:

  1. You want to boost your immunity.

    Notice there is no citation in the entire article for this and there is no URL provided within her claim, unlike the bad breath commentary.

  2. You'd like to improve your digestive health.

    The URL she provided for help with digestion has nothing to do with digestion, merely for taste and periodontal health.

Conclusion

There is no evidence within her own article, that would lead one to believe that scraping your tongue would do anything but fight off bad breath. Her simply stating that it does is mere conjecture, however she is a scholar in an accredited university and may yet provide the necessary peer reviewed research to back up her claim.

Alternative medicine practitioners consider this toxin-removing-tongue-scraping as a part of Ayurveda Treatment. In the U.S., Ayurveda is considered a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Note: Don't dismiss alternative or holistic treatment if it is indeed proven effective. There are just very little peer reviewed research into those forms of treatments; take them at face value. Some of our greatest discoveries were by those alternative measures and 'accidents' after-all (credit: Sklivvz)

The Mayo Clinic only talks about temporarily relieving the effects of bad breath with tongue scraping [as a treatment]; there is no mention of removing toxins at all.

The Journal of Applied Oral Science1 doesn't mention any reductions of toxin absorption - in fact doesn't mention the word toxins at all - only microbial reduction related to bad breath.


1Asikainen S, Lai CH, Alaluusua S, Slots J. Distribution of Actinobacillus. actinomycetemcomitans serotypes in periodontal health and disease. Oral Microbiol Immunol. 1991;6(2):115-8.

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    Does this answer the question? – Oddthinking Nov 1 '15 at 5:38
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    Ha. Let me be more explicit. The first section is about your personal reaction; interesting for adding colour to the answer, but not actually an answer. The next section addresses a condition called "Coated or white tongue". This isn't relevant; no-one made a claim about that. The third section looks at the overall page (rather than the one claim in particular), irrelevant except for the bullet point about the specific claim. The only evidence given is that the original claimant provided no evidence. That is not an answer. – Oddthinking Nov 1 '15 at 6:25
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    The final section on Mandich herself is ad hominem. It makes no difference to whether she is an expert. Is the claim true? We still don't know. – Oddthinking Nov 1 '15 at 6:25
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    @Oddthinking Corrected. – Ruut Nov 1 '15 at 7:00
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Oddthinking Nov 1 '15 at 15:54
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The immune system is a complex interaction of organs, cells, proteins, other biochemicals, and tissues. Research shows that only known or unknown pathogens, “non-self” substances causing allergies, cancer and illness can trigger or activate the immune system response and my emphasis is that tongue cleaning is not one of the known researched mechanisms known to trigger or boost immunity. Triggering the immune response artificially can be done by vaccination. It is preferable to avoid products calling an inflammatory response a boosting of the immune system referring to Mark Crislip.

A tongue scraper is a tool used to help clean the tongue. No scientific data justifies the necessity to clean the tongue on a regular basis except for oral malodour. Tongue cleaning is known to improve taste sensation.

Cochrane evidence for tongue cleaning

  1. A 2013 study showed that there is insufficient evidence to recommend frequency or duration of tongue cleaning and the use of toothbrushing plus tongue cleaning significantly reduced the indicators of halitosis (malodor) and tongue coating.

The use of toothbrushing plus tongue cleaning compared with toothbrushing alone significantly reduced the indicators of halitosis and TC. However, there is insufficient evidence to recommend frequency, duration, or delivery method of tongue cleaning. Further research is needed to articulate a comprehensive clinical guideline. Oral care is an important nursing intervention. Tongue cleaning should be incorporated into current nursing procedures.

  1. A 2010 study showed that tongue cleaning has the potential to successfully reduce breath odor and tongue coating.

This review demonstrated that mechanical approaches, such as tongue brushing or tongue scraping to clean the dorsum of the tongue, have the potential to successfully reduce breath odour and TC. However, data concerning the effect of mechanical tongue cleaning on chronic oral malodour (halitosis) are insufficient.

  1. A 2006 study showed that there is a small but statistically significant difference in reduction of volatile sulfur compound levels when tongue cleaners are used which is interpreted by ADA as short term efficacy.

There is weak and unreliable evidence to show that there is a small but statistically significant difference in reduction of VSC levels when tongue scrapers or cleaners rather than toothbrushes are used to reduce halitosis in adults. We found no high level evidence comparing mechanical with other forms of tongue cleaning.

  • "Research shows that only known or unknown pathogens, cancer and illness can trigger the immune system response" that seems clearly false. Allergies do trigger the immune system despite not being either of those categories. – Christian Nov 27 '15 at 13:13
  • Given that the 2013 study says "Further research is needed to articulate a comprehensive clinical guideline. Oral care is an important nursing intervention. Tongue cleaning should be incorporated into current nursing procedures." I think your exerpt is misleading. Cochrane does consider it a promising intervention but just doesn't know how frequently and which what duration it should be done. – Christian Nov 27 '15 at 13:15
  • Many studies used that standard notation about future research since currently nothing is defined or confirmed according to that papers and I have already added the information about the frequency and duration ! – pericles316 Nov 27 '15 at 13:18
  • I think "should be incorporated into current nursing procedures" is pretty clear language of someone considering an intervention valuable. The fact that we don't know the ideal frequency/duration is relatively irrelevant for the question whether tongue cleaning is valuable. – Christian Nov 27 '15 at 13:21
  • @ added the allergy omission as you right pointed out and will also add the synopsis of the research under Cochrane point #1. – pericles316 Nov 27 '15 at 13:23

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