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This dentist-approved tool is the 'most important and effective' way to get rid of bad breath, and it's just $6

Using your toothbrush to clean your tongue just isn't enough, an expert says.

Let's face it: We all get bad breath occasionally, especially in the morning. It's only human to have less-than-fresh breath after waking up, but there's actually a dentist-approved remedy that doesn't involve mouthwash or an aggressively minty toothpaste: a tongue scraper.

You've probably heard about tongue scrapers before, but didn't think using one was a necessary for your oral care routine. Curious, we spoke to a dentist and learned that regular tongue scraping is just as important as brushing your teeth. What? The good news: Tongue scrapers aren't expensive, and you can get the No. 1 bestselling MasterMedi Tongue Scraper from Amazon for $6.

Trying to improve bad breath? A tongue scraper is a good bet, dentists say. This one has over 85,000 five-star reviews and comes with a handy carrying case.

$6 at Amazon

What's the main cause of bad breath?

Erin Fraundorf, DMD, MSD, and owner of BOCA Orthodontic + Whitening Studio outside St. Louis, said there are many causes of bad breath, but it mainly stems from bacteria found on the back of your tongue.

"Bacteria consume the food particles left in our mouths and excrete waste in the form of volatile sulfur compounds," Fraundorf said. "These compounds are the actual odor-emitting particles that you smell as 'bad breath.' Morning breath occurs due to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth overnight."

She added that poor oral hygiene and dry mouth also contribute to bad breath, so it's important to use a tool that ensures that your mouth is as clean as possible — and that's where the tongue scraper comes into play.

Why is a tongue scraper necessary?

According to Fraundorf, a tongue scraper "is an absolutely essential tool to improving [bad breath] and quite possibly the most important and effective."

In explaining how a tongue scraper works, she compared the tongue to a sponge-like mushroom. "Food particles, bacteria, and fungus get trapped in between and under this meadow" of mushrooms, she said. "Bad bacteria thrive in these anaerobic areas, making it a major source of halitosis (bad breath)."

She added that a tongue scraper works by "removing the thick biofilm on the bumpy surface of the tongue." By scraping this film off, nutrients from your healthy saliva get into the biome underneath.

"Tongue scraping has been found to promote the right balance of good bacteria in your mouth, improve bad breath, enhance taste, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and lessen cavities," Fraundorf added.

Is a toothbrush enough to clean your tongue?

If you figured brushing your tongue was enough, Fraundorf confirmed that it's not doing as much as you probably hope. "Researchers have found that tongue scraper removed 30% more volatile sulfur compounds on the tongue than a toothbrush," she said. "So although cleaning your tongue with a toothbrush is better than not cleaning at all, using a tongue scraper has been determined to be significantly more effective."

Woman using a tongue scraper
Using a tongue scraper one to two times a day can help you combat bad breath, experts say. (Getty)

How often should you use a tongue scraper?

Fraundorf recommends using a tongue scraper one to two times a day — so, nearly as often as you would brush your teeth. She added, though, that once your microbiome is healthy, "you can decrease to two to three times a week" if you'd like.

Also, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to wait until it's time to brush your teeth to pull out your tongue scraper. "Tongue scraping can be done whenever you want, not necessarily before brushing or after," she said. " It can be a stand-alone activity."

The only rule you need to follow: Your tongue must be wet before you begin scraping. "If you wake up and your mouth is really dry from mouth breathing at night, be sure to drink some water to moisten your mouth prior to tongue scraping," Fraundorf said.

Unsure of which tongue scraper to buy? This stainless steel option from MasterMedi is a personal favorite. It also has over 85,000 five-star reviews and comes with a carrying case for storage and travel.

Several reviewers said they noticed their bad breath diminished or completely went away — in some cases, after just one use. "The thick, white, 'mossy' layer that lived on the back of my tongue is gone," one shopper wrote. "There is no odor on my breath. Like, none!"

Another shopper who's used a few different tongue scrapers said this one was the best of the bunch. "I have been using this tongue scraper for almost two weeks and it's the best tongue scraper I've ever bought. I used to use Dentek but I feel like the stainless steel is just better and more hygienic than those plastic tongue scrapers. Overall, I feel like I get a better clean with this brand."

"Be gentle, but you can also get quite a bit of build up that accumulates on the tongue with a few passes," advised a final reviewer. "It can make your tongue a little sensitive if you are not gentle, but otherwise, nothing but good to say about it."

This bestselling stainless steel tongue scraper is more effective than plastic versions, its fans say.

$6 at Amazon

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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.