Like commercial health and beauty products on the market, toothpaste has been industrialized over the years. Fluoride – free toothpastes are becoming more common because of its toxic effects though it is said to prevent caries. Not only fluoride, but other ingredients like titanium oxide, glycerin, sodium lauryl sulfate and artificial sweeteners can cause damage to the teeth. Also mouthwash can cause adverse effects.
Global need for maintenance of oral health
Oral diseases are one of the most important problems in public health and are on the rise in developing countries. Dental caries and periodontal diseases are among the most important global oral health problems. Also there is rise in incidence of oral cancer and other disorders. There is a global need for safe and effective alternative prevention and treatment.
In Ayurveda, dental health is individualistic varying with each person’s Prakriti (Constitution). There are different twigs mentioned for brushing for different Prakriti. Oral cavity includes the Oshtha (lips), Dantamoola (gingiva and tooth supporting structures), Danta (teeth), Jihva (tongue), Talu (palate), Kantha (throat) and Sarvasara (oral mucosa). The Mukha (oral cavity) is the gateway of the alimentary canal and is considered to be one of the most important parts of the Urdhwajatru (part above the clavicles). Oral health reflects the body health.
Ayurvedic recommendations for oral health includes
Danta Dhavana (Brushing) – Ayurveda advises brushing with twigs like neem or twigs of astringent, bitter and pungent taste.
Jihwa nirlekhana (Tongue scrapping) – Tongue scrapping is done gently with a metal scrapper from root to tip. This removes accumulated dirt and bad odor.
Gandusha (Gargling) – Gandusha (Mouth gargle) is filling the mouth to its full capacity with liquid for prescribed period of time and then the patient spits it out.
Dhumapana (Herbal smoke) – Dhumapana is inhalation of herbal smoke. Dhumapana gives firmness of teeth, pleasant smell and cleanliness of mouth.
Nasya (Nasal medication) – Administration of medicine through the nose is called Nasya. When administered after brushing, it bestows good smell to the mouth. When administered after meal, it cleanses the passage and bestows a feeling of lightness.
Pratisarana (Massaging the teeth and gums) – Pratisarana is done with paste of herbs, thick decoction, honey or powder of herbs. It is applies with fingers and rubbed gently on teeth and gums. This process removes the food debris and plaque and helps to maintain the periodontal health.
Ahara (Diet) – For healthy living and for healthy teeth and gums, one should eat healthy diet. It’s not only what we eat but when we eat also can affect our dental health. Timely meals, preferably freshly prepared and warm is advised. Eat healthy foodstuffs like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, vegetable protein, low fat diet. Reduce excess intake of fast foods, refrigerated food & drinks, aerated drinks, refined sugars and sweets. Drink sufficient fluids. Brush your teeth after every meal.
Vihara (Lifestyle) – Avoidance of smoking, alcohol and tobacco is a must for oral health. Regular physical exercise is not only beneficial for overall health but also plays a vital role in oral health. Being physically active throughout the day and doing moderate physical exercise will help maintain oral health. Breathing exercises are also good for oral health.
Aushadha Prayoga (Use of herbs) – Most of the oral diseases are caused due to bacterial infections. The antibacterial activity of medicinal plants are due to the presence of potential bioactive compounds which help to reduce bacterial load in the oral cavity and thus prevent formation of plaque, dental caries and ulcers.
Ayurveda is a holistic health system which also recommends some daily therapeutic procedures for the prevention and maintenance of oral health. Most of the oral diseases are due to bacterial infections and medicinal plants have anti-bacterial activity against various microorganisms including bacteria’s responsible for dental caries.