Ayurveda, or Ayurvedic medicine, is an ancient system of traditional medicine hailing all the way from native India. Based on the belief that our overall health and well-being is dependent on a delicate balance between our mind, body and spirit, this form of alternative medicine has recently gained mainstream attention in the last few years.
In addition to beauty practices and dietary habits, Ayurvedic medicine can also be applied to the maintenance of good, oral hygiene.
The importance of dental health
Aside from giving more emphasis to our smiles, teeth are incredibly important in the process of digestion. They are the first step of digestion as they help us chew our food and break it into smaller pieces.
According to recent statistics from the World Health Organization, oral diseases are the most common noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and they affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death (1). Furthermore, most individuals in low- and middle-income countries are unable to afford dental treatment. If that’s not enough, poor dental health can also lead to serious health problems.
With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death worldwide, prioritizing your dental care may help to curb rates. Atherosclerosis refers to the hardening of the arteries – as a result of a buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances. This then increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. According to one study from Harvard university and another published in BMC Oral Health, poor dental health may increase the risk of atherosclerosis. It appears that the bacteria from inflamed gums makes its way into the bloodstream, before traveling to the heart’s arteries and adding to the already accumulated plaque build up.
Gingivitis is a form of gun disease that causes gum inflammation and according to a recent study, there exists a link between gum disease and dementia. It appears that the bacteria from the inflamed gum travels through nerve channels and makes its way to the brain. Once there, the bacteria triggers the formation of toxic proteins that will soon increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor dental health may also be affecting a man’s healthy sexual function. Periodontitis refers to the inflammation of the gums as well as tooth structure. It can increase the risk of tooth loss and, it appears, erectile dysfunction. According to one study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, men who suffer from this gum disease have a greater risk of experiencing sexual impotence. It appears that the bacteria formed in the teeth travels to the bloodstream and causes inflammation. This inflammation then blocks the healthy blood flow of blood to male genitalia, which then makes getting an erection almost impossible.
It appears that poor dental health may also affect one’s ability to conceive, as one study found a correlation between periodontitis and a lower sperm count.
Expectant mothers need to be sure that they are also prioritizing their dental health. According to one study published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, periodontitis increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight in infants.
If you’re dealing with poor dental health, the inhaling of infected bacteria will soon affect your ability to, well, breathe. According to a study published in The Journal of Periodontology, gum disease may increase the risk of lung infections, including pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disorder that often affects many joints in the body, particularly those in the hands and feet. That said, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society revealed that people with gum disease were four times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis (2).
It’s clear that, the effects of poor oral hygiene and health can be extremely detrimental to one’s overall health. However, adopting a few Ayurvedic practices may serve to protect your oral health and leave you with a great smile on your face.
Ayurvedic treatment and dental health
According to Ayurveda medicine, the root of many diseases are as a result of imbalances in doshas. These three doshas are referred to as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and they are biological energies that influence our individual makeups. In terms of oral health, an imbalance in any of these doshas can cause dental problems.
The doshas are based on a combination of elements. Vata is wind and air, Pitta is fire and water and Kapha is based on earth and water. According to Ayurvedic medicine, an imbalance in any of the doshas can cause dental problems. This includes cavities, tooth pain, bad breath, yellow teeth, dry gums, swollen tongues, tooth loss, and bleeding gums.
The purpose of our gums is to support our teeth as well as protect them from bacteria. That said, it’s important to maintain their overall health.
One way to do so is through a gum massage. Ayurvedic medicine suggests that a gum massage is a great way to keep your gums healthy.
According to a study published in the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, a gum massage using a mixture of sesame oil, olive oil and coconut oil helped to maintain dental health. Sesame oil helps to ease gum inflammation and coconut oil helps to fight gum disease.
Oil pulling (kavala) has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and has only recently gained mainstream attention. Through the act of swishing and gargling a teaspoon of oil in your mouth for 15-20 seconds morning and evening, one will combat bad breath, dry mouth, tooth decay and gum inflammation.
Ayurveda believes that the process of oil pulling helps to extract harmful bacteria from the mouth. This detoxifying effect then leaves the teeth healthy and strong.
So which oil should you use? Organic and unrefined sesame seed oil is often the oil of choice when it comes to oil pulling. That said, organic and unrefined olive oil works just as well.
In addition to oils, one can also gargle salted water if they want to maintain their dental health. A salt gargle helps to prevent tooth decay by clearing the mouth of bacterial growth, plaques and cavities.
Tooth Cleaning Sticks (datum)
The process of chewing on twigs for dental health can be traced back to ancient times.
The twigs themselves contain beneficial medicinal properties. Additionally, they are free of any harmful ingredients often found in commercial toothpastes.
The most common twigs used are neem sticks and licorice roots. Neem sticks contain strong anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. As a result, they are effective in fighting off bacteria and preventing any form of tooth decay. A study published in the journal Pharmacognosy Review revealed how the extract from the neem sticks helped to prevent the accumulation of bacteria in the teeth.
Similar to neem sticks, dried licorice root helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease by killing off bacteria (3). Furthermore, licorice helps to generate more saliva and this is important for dental health as saliva contains proteins that help protect dental health.
Choosing a twig
When choosing a dental twig, be sure to select one from plants that possess antimicrobial properties – they’ll be bitter. Once done, peel the skin of the then twig and chew it in one corner to make it like a brush. Following this, use gentle strokes and brush it all across the gums and teeth. After you’re done, make sure not to swallow but rather spit out any remaining twig fibers still in your mouth.
According to Ayurveda, different parts of the tongue are linked to the various organs within the body. These include the kidneys, intestines, lungs, liver, stomach and heart. That said, maintaining the health of the tongue can help to benefit these different organs.
The act of tongue scrapping (jihva nirlekhana) removes toxins coating the tongue and bad breath. Furthermore, it also stimulates the tongue’s taste buds thus removing any tastelessness you may have been experiencing. Furthermore, tongue scrapping also helps stimulate the better secretion of digestive enzymes, which is imperative for healthy digestion.
Traditional tongue scrapers are made from stainless steel and copper but you can also find ones made from bamboo. Every morning before eating breakfast, gently scrape your entire tongue from the back all the way to the tip for a few strokes. Then, gently rinse the scraper and repeat the action 5 more times.
The Bottom Line
The state of our oral health determines the state of our general well-being. That said, it’s imperative that we pay extra attention to all aspects of our dental hygiene.
Aside from adopting the above mentioned ayurvedic tips, we should also practice other forms of dental care practices. This includes refraining from consuming too many refined sugar products such as sweets, pastries and sodas. Rather, we should opt for leafy greens and Cruciferous vegetables as they help to prevent plaque build up and bad breath.