Effectiveness of mechanical tongue cleaning on oral levels of volatile sulfur compounds

J Am Dent Assoc. 2001 Sep;132(9):1263-7; quiz 1318. doi: 10.14219/jada.archive.2001.0369.


Background: Mechanical tongue cleaning may be an effective method for decreasing oral levels of volatile sulfur compounds, or VSC, and oral malodor. The authors conducted a study to compare the effectiveness of a specially designed tongue cleaner (One Drop Only Tongue Cleaner, One Drop Only, Berlin), a tongue scraper and a toothbrush in reducing oral VSC levels.

Methods: In this balanced, crossover study, 30 subjects had four morning appointments each with a waiting period of one week between appointments. At each appointment, a dental professional performed a single standardized tongue cleaning procedure using one of the cleaning tools. The authors monitored the subjects' oral VSC values using a portable sulfide monitor until their baseline VSC values were reached.

Results: The baseline values showed no significant difference between the three groups. The tongue cleaner and the tongue scraper (42 percent and 40 percent, respectively) reduced oral VSC levels more than the toothbrush (33 percent) did. Reduced VSC values could be detected significantly longer after using the tongue cleaner than after using the tongue scraper or the toothbrush. The authors, however, could not detect a significant VSC reduction for more than 30 minutes in any of the subjects.

Conclusions and clinical implications: The tongue cleaner, a combination brush and scraper, was slightly more effective in reducing oral VSC levels than were the tongue scraper and a regular toothbrush. Because of the limited duration of the effect, however, the clinical efficacy on the reduction of oral malodor remains questionable.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Breath Tests
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dental Devices, Home Care*
  • Female
  • Halitosis / metabolism
  • Halitosis / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / analysis
  • Sulfhydryl Compounds / metabolism
  • Sulfides / analysis
  • Sulfides / metabolism
  • Tongue*
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation


  • Sulfhydryl Compounds
  • Sulfides