It is a known fact that there is no single universal treatment to any disease as everything is individualized. Unlike the general treatment approach of modern medicine, dental health (called Danta Swasthya in Sanskrit) in Ayurveda is personalized based on one’s Prakriti (Phenotype / Body constitution). Prakriti has a significant role in preventive medicine and it determines the predispositions and may predict individual’s drug sensitivity and responses. Swasthavritha (Preventive health measures) explained in Ayurveda helps us adopt healthy lifestyle, make wise eating choices and inculcate suitable oral health and hygiene procedures in harmony with one’s Prakriti to have optimum oral health.
Why to start our day with chemical toothpaste when we have natural remedies with us?
Ayurvedic Oral Hygiene Procedures and their Benefits
The primary aim of oral hygiene measures in Ayurveda is to remove the adherent doshas, mainly Kapha from the mouth and balance the doshas. The following are the oral hygiene procedures explained in Dinacharya (Daily regimen) which help to improve oral hygiene, enhance its functioning and prevent various diseases of the oral cavity.
- Danta dhawana (Brushing / Chewing twigs) – In olden days one used to brush the teeth using twigs of trees specific to one’s Prakriti. Some twigs were seen have anti bacterial action and help in plaque control, also chewing on twigs helps to cause attrition and levelling of biting surfaces and facilitate salivary secretion.
- Pratisarana (Massaging the gums and teeth) – Fine powders of herbs mixed with honey or lukewarm water are gently massaged on the gums and teeth with finger tips or toothbrush. It has cleansing and healing effect on the oral cavity. It removes the food debris and plaque which are the main cause of oral health problems. It helps to increase blood circulation and enhances gingival defence mechanism, giving strength to the gingival fibres to maintain the gingival and dental health.
- Jihwa Nirlekhana (Tongue scrapping) removes accumulated dirt (Ama) and halitosis. It helps to appreciate the taste of food and helps maintain oral health.
- Gandusha (Gargle) / Kavala (Oil pulling) – In gargling, the mouth is filled to its full capacity and in oil pulling the mouth is filled to 3/4th to its capacity with herbal liquids or oils and spit out. Plaque and bacteria are fat soluble, hence binds with oil and is then disposed when we spit it out. The active ingredients present in the liquid is absorbed in the oral mucosa which in turn brings out the toxins and debris from inter – dental, gingival and gingival margins thereby helping in better taste perception and building resistance against oral health problems caused due to vitiation of doshas or improper diet. It is a very simple procedure which has both preventive and curative benefits and helps strengthen the teeth, gums and oral cavity.
- Pratimarsha Nasya (Nasal drops) – Instilling one drop of recommended fat in each nostril after brushing the teeth will strengthen the teeth, help in good breath and prevent halitosis. It has immune promotive property and helps to strengthen the sense organs and the parts above the neck including the oral cavity.
- Hita Ahara and Vihara (Wholesome diet and lifestyle) – Teeth are affected by the quality of our nutrition, stress levels and overall health. Hence following diet and lifestyle suitable to one’s Prakriti is also important to maintain good oral health.
Oral health practices for Vata Prakriti
People with predominance of Vata are seen to experience more space between teeth, irregular placement of teeth and teeth that are unhealthy. Because of the involvement of bone tissue, Vata tooth are more prone to dental carries, tooth sensitivity problems and tooth decay. Vata Prakriti people are also prone to dry and cracked lips, dryness of the mouth, looseness of teeth, atrophic and receding gums. The following procedures are the simplest way to maintain oral health and hygiene in Vata dominant people and help to prevent oral health problems.
- Chewing twigs of bitter-sweet or astringent taste. Eg. liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) or Khadira (Acacia catechu)
- Gentle rubbing of the teeth and gums with a mixture of Triphala, dry ginger, pomegranate rind, rock salt, asafoetida mixed with warm water or honey
- Tongue scrapping with tongue scrapper made of gold.
- Gargle with warm oils or unctuous liquids prepared from herbs of sweet, sour or salty taste and hot potency herbs. Eg. Sesame oil or Sesame paste with warm water or hot infusion of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) or ginger or caraway seeds.
- Apply one drop of sesame oil in each nostril daily.
- Vata dominant people should avoid excess flossing. Aggressive oral health care and hygiene practices are bound to be Vata aggravating and over time will surely negatively impact the teeth and gums. As dryness and roughness are inherent characteristics of Vata dosha, Vata dominant people should include sufficient ghee or oil in diet. Obey regularity in eating time and eat varieties of nutritious and healthy food. Eat slowly and mindfully. Eat sitting on a place. Never skip meals and never eat before previous meal has been digested. Prefer sweet, sour and salty taste in daily eating. Prefer to eat more cooked food than raw ones.
Oral health practices for Pitta Prakriti
Pitta predominant people are commonly seen to have yellow coloured teeth with some tartar. These people are also seen to have sharp teeth and soft gums. Because of the dominance of Pitta, Kapha is on the lower side by default. These people experience erosion of the tissues including teeth. Pitta Prakriti people generally have sensitive teeth and are prone to bleeding gums, mouth sores and halitosis. They can maintain better oral health and hygiene by the below advises. Also these have a soothing effect in the buccal cavity and helps reduce irritation in the mouth.
- Chewing twigs of bitter taste like Neem (Azadirachta indica) or Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna)
- A mixture of liquorice, neem, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf is used for massaging the teeth and gums
- Tongue scrapping with tongue scrapper made of silver.
- Liquids prepared with bitter, astringent, sweet and coolant herbs for mouth gargle. Eg. Milk, ghee, Cold infusion of asparagus or liquorice or fennel.
- Apply one drop of ghee in each nostril daily.
- Pitta dominant people have high basal metabolic rate. Pitta dominant people should avoid spicy and acidic food in excess and prefer to include more of natural sweet, bitter and astringent tastes in their diet to pacify the sharpness associated with fire component of Pitta dosha. They should avoid staying hungry or long gap between meals. Lukewarm water or water at normal temperature should be sipped throughout the day, especially during meals. Pitta people can chew fennel seeds mixed with cane sugar after every meal. Lukewarm fennel or rose tea is good for them.
Oral health practices for Kapha Prakriti
Kapha people have strong, well formed, large white teeth with beautiful teeth line and well formed fleshy gums. However they generally tend to have whitish coat in tongue, pale and hypertrophic gums. They are prone to excess salivation and anorexia. The following procedures help to purify the oral cavity by eliminating excess Kapha dosha.
- Chewing twigs of pungent taste like Arka (Calotropis gigantic) or Putikaranja (Caesalpinia bonduc).
- Rubbing the gums and teeth gently with a mixture of Triphala, Trikatu and honey.
- Use of tongue scrapper made from copper.
- Warm liquids prepared with herbs which are sharp, hot, dry, bitter, sour, pungent taste mixed with honey for mouth gargle. Eg. Triphala decoction mixed with honey or mustard oil or hot infusion of basil or neem.
- Apply one drop of mustard or sesame oil in each nostril daily.
- Cold nature of Kapha is against hot nature of metabolism, so Kapha people have slow metabolic rate. Kapha people should reduce high caffeine products, carbonated drinks, chilled drinks, iced tea, refined sugar, fast food, oily, fried or processed food, excess carbohydrates, yeasted bread, red meat, butter, cheese, yoghurt and confectionaries. Spiced buttermilk, hot and lukewarm water are good. Lesser quantity of alcoholic beverages, wines, goat milk, diluted yoghurt, sea food and white meat is okay. Having a glass of buttermilk spiced with ginger, black pepper and rock salt after lunch is good. Ginger tea or basil tea is good. Regular exercise is a must.
Ayurvedic oral cleansing techniques can benefit bad breath, dull senses, loss of taste and such other conditions. As digestion begins in the mouth, dental problems can compromise our ability to chew properly and create oral imbalance that is crucial to the first stage of digestion. Hence healthy teeth helps maintain healthy digestion as well. Apart from avoidance of smoking, alcohol and tobacco, Ayurvedic oral hygiene practices according to one’s Prakriti support our oral health by nourishing, detoxifying and rejuvenating the oral tissues and thereby enriching oral, digestive and overall healthy by decreasing susceptibility to infection.
Dr. Lakshmi Anoop
Consultant Physician & Head of Panchakarma Department,
Chakrapani Ayurveda Clinic & Research Center,
Shanti Path, 8, Diamond Hill, Tulsi Circle,
Behind Birla Temple, Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Pincode – 302004