Five Effective Ayurvedic Dental Care Methods
While Ayurvedic medicine approaches each person as a unique combination of doshas and requirements, basic oral hygiene is universal, and Vedic methods have proven to be efficacious — the National Institute for Health (NIH) has published 22 favorable studies confirming the value of these ancient health practices.
Dental care falls under the umbrella of Ayurvedic surgery — there was no specialized dentistry branch within the Vedic system. Teeth are considered part of the skeletal system, and sockets are seen as joints. Oral health in Ayurveda is linked to overall health and well-being, and the condition of the mouth and tongue are considered a window to the body’s health.
The mouth and teeth are also used to determine dosha imbalances. In the most general terms, oral mucus and plaque, along with a white coating on the tongue, indicates kapha imbalances; dry, cracked lips, tooth pain, receding gums and cavities indicate vata imbalances; mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, and tooth sensitivity are associated with pitta imbalances.
Five Ayurvedic Dental Care Practices:
Amla, or Gooseberry
This fruit, in fresh or dried forms, is known to support the connective tissues in the gums and keep teeth from loosening. The fruit works slowly over the long term, but the results are long lasting. Gooseberry fights bacteria and protects from decay, cavities and bad breath. In India, the fresh fruit is chewed, but amla powder is available in the West via online retailers or Vedic pharmacies. This brand is certified organic. One method for amla delivery is making a mouth rinse:
- Put two green tea bags in one cup of boiling water.
- Let cool, then add one tablespoon amla powder.
Use as a mouth rinse before bedtime. Refrigerate, and shake well before using.
2. Miswak and Neem Tooth-Cleaning Twigs
Miswak twigs are from the arak tree. The sticks have been used for thousands of years in the Middle East and Asian sub-continent. Research shows that, compared with a toothbrush, miswak twigs are more effective on streptococcus bacteria and its mutations. They are also less abrasive than traditional tooth brushes. The World Health Organization recommends miswak sticks, for third world populations without access to Western toothbrushes and paste. Some prefer them to commercial toothbrushes, manual and electric, because they are gentle on tooth enamel. No toothpaste is required, and sticks can be used several times a day between meals. Miswak sticks also whiten teeth and remove stains.
Neem sticks are also widely used, but store fresh sticks in the freezer or refrigerator wrapped in paper — not plastic. Clinical trials showed neem sticks are as effective, in some cases more so, as conventional toothbrushes. According to Ayurvedic practitioner and expert John Douillard, neem is called “the village pharmacy” in rural India. The plant and its extractions are used for skin care, digestive balance, treating halitosis, and immune support as well as oral hygiene.
For thousands of years, salt has been used for its “drawing” action, which helps pull infection from inflamed tissues. The ancients did not used table salt processed with aluminum and stripped of natural minerals. Rather, they sought pure, natural salts, either mined or extracted from sea water. Used as one of the earliest forms of currency, salt is essential to human survival. Representing the earth element, salt is one of the three fundamental alchemical substances, along with mercury (water) and sulphur (fire).
In Ayurveda, salt heats and calms the body. Used for food preservation, salt was consumed in larger quantities during winter. When a cold or sore throat is coming on, a salt gargle and mouth rinse restores the mouth’s pH balance, discouraging bacterial growth. Regular salt gargles are an excellent preventative during cold and flu season.
4. Tongue Scraping
Tongue scraping originated with Chinese medicine but was adopted by the Vedics and is believed to have countless benefits. By cleaning surface tissue, taste buds are able to detect and process the six different tastes (sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, salty), making these substances available to the rest of the body. Tongue scraping is considered good for all the organs, and Ayurvedic medicine asserts that the practice clears the mind and reduces ama (toxins, dead bacteria). Our modern tongue scrapers are made from stainless steel, copper, and occasionally bamboo or plastic, and are widely available at natural health food stores or online retailers. Ideally, the tongue is scraped before eating and after oil pulling (see below).
This method, called Kavala in Ayurvedic texts, is now recognized for efficacy and effectiveness by the NIH. Oil pulling results in reductions in plaque-induced gum disease and bacterial colony counts in the mouth. According to the NIH:
“Oil pulling is a powerful detoxifying Ayurvedic technique that has recently become very popular as a complementary and alternative remedy for many health ailments. Using this method, surgery or medication could be prevented for a number of chronic illnesses. The oil therapy is preventative as well as curative. The exciting aspect of this healing method is its simplicity. Ayurveda advises oil gargling to purify the entire system, as it holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organ such as to the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart, small intestines, stomach, colon, and spine, similarly to reflexology and Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
Oil pulling instructions are widely available on the internet. Some people prefer to use organic, unrefined, cold-pressed sesame oil, while others believe organic virgin coconut oil has extra benefits. Ayurveda also advises gargling, then massaging the gums with unrefined, organic warm sesame oil. For toothaches, mix with clove oil; for gum health, many add Amla powder to the oil and massage the gums.
Watch this episode of Ayurveda for Detox for more effective health tips:
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Jo Cameron's Life Without Pain; A Story of Rare Genetic Mutations
When Jo Cameron underwent a double hand surgery procedure, which would have left most people in excruciating pain, she left the hospital happy, vivacious, and in no pain whatsoever. At the time, Cameron was 65 years old and should have been even more susceptible to the surgery’s painful aftermath. Recognizing this anomalous behavior, doctors decided to investigate and found Cameron’s DNA contained two genetic mutations that made her unable to feel pain either physically or emotionally.
A Happy Genetic Mutation
Like anyone else, Cameron has been scraped, burned, and bruised throughout her life. But these physical injuries had little effect on her. After two surgeries, which left doctors baffled by her recovery — she needed only two aspirin the day after a hip-replacement surgery to deal with the pain — she was referred to a team of specialists at University College London’s Molecular Nociception Group (UCL).
Following a thorough DNA study, scientists at UCL published an unusual case report in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, revealing their findings of two genetic mutations:
Genetic Mutation #1:
This mutation affects the FAAH gene, which produces the enzyme responsible for breaking down anandamide — a neurotransmitter that’s been dubbed “the bliss molecule” (appropriately named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, "ananda") for its ability to bind to THC receptors, affecting mood, appetite, pain, and memory. When the FAAH genes break down anandamide, we experience physical and mental pain. But with a mutation like Cameron’s, the bliss molecule is allowed to preside, bringing out anandamide’s positive effects.
Surprisingly, this genetic mutation is not as uncommon as one may think, as about 20 percent of Americans are said to possess it. However, this percent of the populace doesn’t have Cameron’s second mutation, which compounds the effect and prevents her from experiencing any pain at all.
Genetic Mutation #2:
The discovery of this rare genetic mutation, named the FAAH-OUT gene, was said to be scientifically groundbreaking, as it was found to be a previously unidentified gene. As may be guessed from its name, the FAAH-OUT gene has a bearing on the FAAH gene, essentially turning down its activity. Working in concert, these two genetic mutations enabled Cameron to live her life unable to feel pain.
“I knew that I was happy-go-lucky, but it didn’t dawn on me that I was different. I thought it was just me. I didn’t know anything strange was going on until I was 65,” she told the The Guardian,