How to Clean Your Tongue Without Gagging

Bad breath has long been associated with dirty teeth and your tongue. Whilst cleaning your teeth is actually very easy, cleaning your tongue can be a frustrating experience especially if you have a strong gag reflex too anything going near the back of your throat.

Like everything in the human body, everybody is different. Some people have a minor gag reflex meaning they can poke around in their mouth without a problem, whilst for others, it can be a difficult experience.

What Causes You To Gag?

The pharyngeal reflex (Gag Reflex) has a very important role and effectively stop you choking when something hits the back of your throat. In the most extreme cases, this reflex quickly causes vomiting to help extract any foreign objects from within your throat.

Your pharyngeal reflex is important when your a baby as it stops foods and liquids from entering your windpipe when the muscles around this area have not developed fully enough to be able to control the separation between air to your lungs and food to your stomach. Quite why this reflex does not completely disappear with age is still a mystery, however the good news is that your gag reflex is not fixed and it’s still very possible to desensitize the back of your throat to ensure that you can effectively clean your tongue.

Why Do You Need To Clean Your Tongue?

Cleaning your tongue is a very important part of your daily hygiene and will help to keep your mouth fresh, stop any infections from forming or developing and can improve your sense of taste allowing you to enjoy food.

Halitosis (Bad Breath) is cause my two things, plague building up on your teeth, and residues building up on your tongue. In this section we’re focusing on the residues building up on your tongue, however if you want to know how to clean your teeth click here.

Studies have shown that patients that use a tongue scraper twice a day for three weeks, reduces the bacterial sulphur compounds by 75%. It’s these bacterial compounds found on the tongue that cause bad breath. In another more recent study, researchers found that after a month of cleaning your tongue twice a day using a tongue scraper, people found that their sense of taste increased as well.

Check out this review where we look at the Best Tongue Scrapers to use at home


Before we start looking at the process for cleaning your tongue, we need to think about desensitizing your mouth to stop the gag relax from making us vomit.

The process is very simply given that all we’re trying to do is get out tongue used object being close to and therefore reducing the gag effect.

The Process

  1. Take Your Toothbrush and run it under the tap for a couple of seconds
  2. Stick your tongue out as far as you can whilst pressing it down on top of your lower set of teeth
  3. Using the back side of your tooth brush, slowly start to rub your tongue in a left-to-right motion starting from the tip and heading into your mouth
  4. Once you feel that twinge where you gag reflex starts to kick into to action, focus on spending the first couple of session in that area. It important that you don’t try and push the limit initially, but get your tongue used to this foreign object being so close
  5. Slowly rub this area for 10 seconds and then stop. Try repeating this three times at least twice a day
  6. Over time you will notice that you will be able to move the brush further and further into your mouth as the your reflex starts to desensitize.

Use A Tongue Scraper

Using your toothbrush is a great way to desensitise your gag reflex, but i would highly recommend that you don’t use it to clean your tongue. Firstly, it really not a good idea to clean your tongue and then use the same tooth brush to clean your teeth. It’s not something that is scientifically proven, but I would worry that you’re simply transferring bacteria from your tongue, onto your teeth.

I better idea is to get yourself a tongue scraper that has been designed to effectively clean your tongue. We have discussed the best tongue scrapers on the market here, however the key benefit of a tongue scraper apart from the reason above is that they have a much lower profile and therefore tend to reduce the gagging reflex because their is more distance between the scraper and the roof of your mouth.

Research by Outhouse in 2008 showed that when compared with simply brushing your tongue, tongue scraper showed a significant benefit to simply brushing your tongue with your regular toothbrush.

How To Clean Your Tongue Without Gagging?

As i have mentioned before on this website, I am not a dental expert and therefore i have referred back to tried and tested methods from the dental professionals for this process. The preferred strategy for cleaning your tongue is a follows;

  1. Stick your tongue out as far as possible and press it down onto the top of your lower lip or teeth.
  2. Inspect your tongue and look for the areas of discoloration. A healthy tongue should be the same colour as your gums, a reddish pink colour meaning that any grey or white discoloration is the bacteria that you’re looking to remove.
  3. Take your tongue scraper and press it gently down on to your tongue. Pull the scraper towards you being careful that you don’t press to hard so that you risk damaging your tongue.
  4. Repeat this step 3-6 times until this area is clean. Be careful not to push the scraper too far into the back of your mouth otherwise you will find your gag reflex starts to kick in.
  5. Finish off by washing the scraper under the tap and washing your mouth with a decent anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill off any bacteria that remains and stop it coming back.

Follow Up

Cleaning you tongue is not a difficult or time consuming process and should take you no longer than a couple of minutes. If you repeat this process daily for a few weeks, you will see noticeable differences in the freshness of your mouth and breath. Bartold 2016



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