Ayurvedic Dental Care - 10 Ways to Keep The Dentist Away
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Oct 11, 2019
Oral hygiene is not something that we generally give much thought to. With bigger concerns like heart disease and diabetes, dealing with plaque and cavities can seem almost trivial. But, it’s not. Poor dental hygiene can give rise to a wide range of problems including gum inflammation or gingivitis and periodontitis, with some of these conditions even linked to an elevated risk of heart disease. So, as has long been emphasized in Ayurved – it’s all connected. Neglecting even one aspect of your health can jeopardize all others. Ayurvedic dental care practices serve as a helpful guide for maintaining oral health, reducing the risk of serious disorders, and also saving you on the expenses of dental treatments that are often not covered by insurance. Although Ayurved does not have a specialized branch for dentistry, it was included in the shalya-chikitsa branch of Ayurved and there are many records of dental treatments and surgical procedures from Ancient India.
10 Ayurvedic Tips for Dental Care
1. Oil Pulling
This is a practice in which the herbal oil is used for an oral gargle or rinse, finding its earliest mention in the Charaka Samhita as "Kabla graham". Oil pulling has been recommended to prevent a wide range of dental conditions, including plaque formation, halitosis, dental decay, gingivitis, and so on. The practice is believed to draw out toxins and activate enzymes, among other benefits. The most commonly used oils include sesame or sunflower oils. This dental care practice is supported by studies that show it to offer other health benefits too.
2. Herbal Chewing Sticks
Herbal brushes, chewing sticks, or datun have a long history of use in ancient India, as well as in other traditional cultures. Ayurved regards these as a safe alternative to toothbrushes and flossing. In fact, studies suggest that these traditional dental hygiene practices may be more beneficial than brushing. It should also be pointed out that flossing was exposed as an ineffective practice simply promoted to boost dental floss sales. Chewing on these twigs and using them to brush the teeth doesn’t just help through the physical action, but also because of the medicinal properties of the plants like neem and babool.
Neem is one of the most valued herbs in Ayurved, with every part of the tree possessing medicinal properties. It is a common ingredient in Ayurvedic medicines for dental care, known to protect against and cure gingival or gum disease. While neem twigs can be used as chewing sticks, the bark of the tree is also noted for its anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-cariogenic, and anti-inflammatory activity.
4. Clove oil
Clove oil has a long history of use in Ayurved, but its therapeutic benefits are so well established that it is also a common ingredient in conventional oral hygiene products like toothpastes and mouthwashes. The health benefits of clove are linked to its main bioactive compound, eugenol, which is known to possess anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. This makes it useful for fighting infections and relieving painful inflammatory conditions, whether resulting from gingivitis, cavities, or dental decay.
An important ingredient in Ayurvedic medicines for oral health, babul has a long history of use as chewing sticks in the Indian subcontinent. Regular use of the herb is said to strengthen the teeth, improve gum health, and protect against plaque formation, which can lead to cavities and dental decay. This traditional use of babul as an Ayurvedic oral care treatment is supported by modern research, which shows that the herb extract has strong antibacterial activity against oral bacteria like S. mutans, S. sanguis, and S. salivarius – all linked to plaque formation and dental disease.
It’s no surprise that turmeric is referred to as sarvoshadhi in Sanskrit – ‘medicine for all diseases’. It is one of the most commonly used ingredients in home remedies for a variety of conditions and is known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. While these properties can also provide oral health benefits, some research shows that the herb may even protect against the development of oral cancer. These benefits are linked to its main compound curcumin and its high content of antioxidants.
Amla is most commonly used as a natural immunity booster because of its high vitamin C content, but it also plays a more direct role in protecting dental health. It is said to strengthen the gums and can inhibit the proliferation of oral bacteria that cause dental plaque and gingival inflammation. The best way to reap these benefits would be by consuming triphala or a triphala mouthwash, as studies have found that the practice can protect against dental plaque formation, gum disease, and dental decay.
Guggul is an important Ayurvedic herb, used in medications to treat nervous system disorders, skin diseases, obesity, menstrual problems, and oral infections. The herb has also attracted attention for its hypocholesterolaemic and hypolipidemic effects, which can protect against heart disease. Most importantly guggul can protect against a range of inflammatory gum diseases, as research findings indicate that it reduces inflammatory markers like high-sensitivity C-reactive protein by as much as 29%.
9. Mango Leaves
Mangoes may be a delicacy to most of us, but the leaves of the mango tree are also packed with nutrients, including tannins, bitter gum, and resins. Mango leaves have been shown to exhibit antimicrobial activity, while the tannins and resins are thought to protect against dental caries, forming a protective layer over tooth enamel. Studies have found that rural communities using mango leaves for oral hygiene experience a lower incidence of cavities.
10. Tongue Scraper
Tongue scrapers have a long history of use in Ayurved and can be made from a variety of materials including bamboo, stainless steel, and copper. These simple devices can be used to clean the surface of the tongue, reducing any buildup and detoxifying the surface. Scientific reviews of the practice have been positive, showing that tongue scraping can actually be more effective than toothbrushes at reducing problems like halitosis.
- Shanbhag, Vagish Kumar L. “Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene - A review.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine vol. 7,1 106-109. 6 Jun. 2016, doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004
- Lakshmi, T et al. “Azadirachta indica: A herbal panacea in dentistry - An update.” Pharmacognosy reviews vol. 9,17 (2015): 41-4. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.15633
- Marya, Charu M et al. “In vitro inhibitory effect of clove essential oil and its two active principles on tooth decalcification by apple juice.” International journal of dentistry vol. 2012 (2012): 759618. doi:10.1155/2012/759618
- Shekar, Chandra et al. “Antimicrobial efficacy of Acacia nilotica, Murraya koenigii L. Sprengel, Eucalyptus hybrid, and Psidium guajava on primary plaque colonizers: An in vitro comparison between hot and cold extraction process.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology vol. 19,2 (2015): 174-9. doi:10.4103/0972-124X.145814
- Cheng, B, et al. “Herbal Medicine and Anaesthasia.” Hong Kong Medical Journal, Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, vol. 8,2 April. (2002):123-30. https://www.hkmj.org/system/files/hkm0204p123.pdf.
- Bajaj, Neeti, and Shobha Tandon. “The effect of Triphala and Chlorhexidine mouthwash on dental plaque, gingival inflammation, and microbial growth.” International journal of Ayurved research vol. 2,1 (2011): 29-36. doi:10.4103/0974-7788.83188
- Outhouse, TL, et al. “A Cochrane Systematic Review Finds Tongue Scrapers Have Short-Term Efficacy in Controlling Halitosis.” General Dentistry, vol. 54, no. 5, 2006, pp. 352–359., PMID:17004573.
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