How to use a tongue depressor?

What is a tongue depressor?

A tongue depressor is a simple Class I medical device. It is intended for use during the course of a medical examination to depress the tongue in order to allow the clinician an easier examination of the mouth and throat. Without the use of a tongue depressor, the tongue is likely to drift and obstruct the clinician’s view. 

However, these simple devices have also found use in a range of other clinical applications, including applying ointments or stirring medications, as well as in industrial, veterinary, and many other applications, making it a useful and versatile tool to have on hand. 

Tongue depressor materials

While semi rigid plastic and even metal tongue depressors are available, biodegradable single-use wooden tongue depressors remain an industry standard. Northern White Birch is a particularly popular material option. This wood type produces a smooth, splinter-free finish, has no taste or odor, and maintains a high tensile strength that allows it flexibility in use.

In addition, birch is a highly sustainable wood source that yields a large amount of product in each tree. A single average-size birch tree can be used to produce 40,000 tongue depressors. 

The types of tongue depressors

Simple as they may seem, there are a number of options to consider when it comes to purchasing tongue depressors.


The standard wood tongue depressor measures 6 inches in length. However, some manufacturers offer size options for the comfort of the smallest patients. Junior wooden tongue depressors measure 5 ½ inches in length by 5/8 inches wide, while infant wood tongue depressors measure 4 1/5 inches long by 3/8 inches wide.

2.Sterile or non-sterile

Tongue depressors are typically available in individual sterile pouches or in non-sterile bulk packaging. Medical examinations will dictate the use of a sterile single-use tongue depressor, and disposal according to all relevant biohazard requirements.


For younger patients, a trip to the doctor’s office can be an uncomfortable or worrisome experience. To ensure these patients’ cooperation and comfort, some tongue depressor manufacturers now offer flavored options. Cherry, grape, and strawberry flavored tongue depressors are a small touch that can help set a clinical practice apart. 

4.Manufacturing process

As mentioned above, tongue depressor manufacturers have the option of selecting highly sustainable wood sources in producing these simple goods. However, tongue depressor purchasers also have the option of selecting a product that is made using renewable practices here in the United States. Each of Puritan Medical’s tongue depressors is produced at our factory in Maine. Our wood process waste goes to heat our building, water, and processes, while wood chip waste is purchased by wood pellet manufacturers.  

How to use a tongue depressor

Using a tongue depressor in a medical examination truly can be as simple as having the patient say “ah.” The tip of the depressor is placed upon the surface of the patient’s tongue. Pushing down gently allows the clinician to examine the inside of the mouth or back of the throat. 

However, given the dozens of potential applications in the medical field alone, usage may be more varied even than the types of tongue depressors available. 

No matter your intended end-use, Puritan provides tongue depressor options sure to meet your needs. To see our entire line of tongue depressors, take a look at our complete catalog. And for complete details, contact Puritan salesto assure you have best advice as you make these important decisions.


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