Ask any medical or dental practitioner and he or she will emphasize that oral health impacts overall health and that poor oral hygiene may find expression in gastrointestinal disorders. Interestingly, even the reverse is true!
Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old holistic system of medicine and healing has always recognized this chain, advocating simple but effective measures to promote total wellbeing. Ayurvedic oral hygiene practices enhance your taste buds, boost immunity and detoxification and trigger an immense change in digestive health.
5 amazing dental care tips from Ayurveda
- Chew a neem twig!
Neem has immense anti-microbial properties. Chewing it releases a wealth of anti-bacterial agents which mix with saliva. This acts swiftly on the teeth, killing harmful microbes and preventing bacteria build-up.
Method: Dant Dhavani or brushing teeth Ayurveda style. Select a neem twig which is fairly thick, say as thick as your little finger. Peel off its skin. Chew away at one corner until it looks like a brush. Now ‘brush’ your teeth, spitting out the saliva at regular intervals. Rinse out your mouth thoroughly when finished.
- Herbal tooth and gum rub a dub dub
There are a few herbs and spices which work like magic enamel cleansers, preventing and curing a plethora of tooth disorders.
Method: Rock salt, garlic, dried guava and mango leaves fall into this category. Select any one, grind to a fine powder and rub on teeth and gums.
- Oil Pulling. What’s this?
Swishing oil around the mouth is called oil pulling or Gandusha. This is a deeply vata-pacifying practice. Removes microbes, refreshes the breath, promotes healthy teeth and gums and mitigates mouth ulcers. It also has a superb side benefit – exercising the muscles of the mouth, toning and strengthening them.
Method: Do this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Take 1 tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil. Infuse it with a little triphala, amrit and fennel seed powders. Swish the oil around the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes before spitting out. Rinse the mouth when done.
- Keep your tongue squeaky clean
Bacteria and toxins pile up on the tongue, causing bad breath. Jivha Lekhana or cleaning the tongue gets rid of toxins, freshening the breath, augmenting taste and improving digestive and oral health in the bargain.
Method: Simply use a good quality tongue scraper. Avoid a plastic one.
- A herbal mouth rinse works wonders
Triphala or Yashtimadhu are perfect for the job. Apart from maintaining oral hygiene, mouth ulcers are also warded off.
Method: Boil Triphala or Yashtimadhu in water (the ratio would be 1:4, herbs being one fourth the quantity) till the water reduces by half. Cool till lukewarm, then use as a rinse.
Take a closer look at the benefits of good oral health
From the moment you pop something in your mouth and its taste is identified, a dialogue opens up between the mouth and the rest of the digestive tract prodding the stomach and intestines to get ready to ‘welcome’ the food. In fact, digestion starts in the mouth itself. Enzymes in the mouth begin to break down simple carbohydrates and sugars. At the same time, chewing breaks down what we’re eating into manageable portions for the stomach. All this boosts digestion, which, according to Ayurveda is indispensable for health and wellbeing.
Issues with the teeth and gums can hinder the subtle chemical interactions that are critical in the initial stages of digestion. While a healthy oral cavity directly influences the gut and the strength of Agni (digestive fire) which in turn affects every cell and tissue throughout the body.
Even the tongue shares a direct energetic alliance with many of our vital internal organs. So keeping the tongue clean is both stimulating and detoxifying for all the organs represented on the surface of the tongue.
Teeth are a Vata domain
Vata behaves itself when it is carefully tended to. The same holds true for teeth and gums and it is one of the reasons why the oral cavity responds well to the gentle oral hygiene practices laid down by Ayurveda.
Now let’s see how digestive health affects dental health
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can affect your mouth. Stomach acids which find their way in your oval cavity can wear away the enamel on your teeth. Also, if the stomach and intestines do not work in proper synchronization, smelly gases can be produced if the system is tackling heavy to digest food. Mouth sores, infections, bleeding or swollen gums can all be given the miss if you sport a healthy digestive system.
The mouth is an integral part of the gut microbiome, and host to oral microbiome. Microbes, enzymes, and nutrients all pass through it on their way to the gut. The mouth and gut are connected. To heal one you have to heal the other.