You must have heard a great deal about the importance of oral hygiene for your dental health. But do you know that Ayurvedic practitioners believe your oral health is a window to your digestive health and psycho-emotional balance?
From the Ayurvedic point of view, oral hygiene is an important aspect of your Dinacharya or daily routine. It is the key to achieving optimal physical and mental well-being and vitality.
Dec 29, 2020 | 28 minutes, 58 seconds
By Vaidya. Jay Parla
Anything that comes across your senses has to be trusted by your oral cavity first. Whether you hear, smell, touch, or look at something, you don’t trust it unless it comes in contact with your oral cavity. For example, if you see a delicious food item, you’ll automatically try to smell it, pick it up to see how it feels in your hands, and shake to see if you can hear something. However, the doubt whether you should consume will remain until you put it in your mouth. If it tastes bitter, you’ll immediately spit it out and your trust in that item will be lost.
Now, coming to the physical implication of oral health in Ayurveda, let’s talk about the mastication process of the food item you ate. You chew the food with the help of your teeth, jaw, and masticatory muscles. It is a mechanical function of the oral cavity.
Lastly, the sense of taste comes from your tongue. Altogether, all three aspects depend on the function of your oral cavity. Another interesting fact about this whole process is that whatever you ingest through your mouth, may affect the sound you produce. While your voice comes from the vocal cords or voice box, the control mechanism of all the communication done through speech is carried out by the structures present in your oral cavity, including the lips, jaws, teeth, cheeks, and tongue.
The following Ayurvedic practices help maintain optimal oral hygiene and health.
Clean your teeth before and after each meal. You may use warm or lukewarm water to rinse your mouth. It’s better if you swallow the water after swishing in your mouth instead of spitting it in the washbasin.
A healthy mouth is one that smells pleasant. Your mouth has its own biome called the oral cavity biome, which is home to several bacteria. These microorganisms live inside the mucous membrane or on or under the tongue. They are also found on the cheeks and in the salivary glands. All these body parts work in synchrony to ensure these microorganisms have a healthy space to live.
The best way to go about this is by using aromatic substances to keep your oral cavity smelling good. Clove is the best option for this. You can chew or suck on them before or after a meal. Ideally, you should use them between meals with a three to four-hour gap.
Cardamom is another great option. The seeds of this small cardamom can be chewed on. You can also use a small piece of nutmeg, as they help in regulating and balancing the oral biome.
In case you don’t want to consume these aromatic substances in the whole form, you can have them in powder form. Make sure you don’t consume more than a pinch because these substances are quite strong.
Ayurvedic experts also suggest using bitter, astringent, and pungent substances to massage the gums for promoting their health. While you enjoy eating sweet, sour, and salty food items, you must consume something to stimulate the mucous membrane and oral cavity. You can use something pungent like ginger, black pepper, or cinnamon. Apart from using them as ingredients, you can also sprinkle them on top of the food items.
Consuming turmeric with everyday food items will significantly improve your oral health. Other bitter substances you can use include neem and fenugreek. They help keep the mucous membrane clean and free from stagnant toxins or food material.
Ayurveda recommends scraping of the tongue immediately after you brush your teeth, as it completes the practice of oral hygiene. This practice helps remove the coating of dirt and leftover food particles from the tongue, preventing a foul smell. It helps make your mouth feel fresh.
Most importantly, tongue scraping helps promote sensory perception. According to Ayurvedic experts, if you don’t scrape your tongue on a daily basis, your perception and saturation of taste get compromised. If you make it your daily habit, a single teaspoon of sugar will be enough to satisfy your need for sugar stimulation. Otherwise, you’ll need a full tablespoon of sugar to achieve the same taste. This practice plays a key role in keeping your sugar intake in check.
Tongue scraping also helps prevent the accumulation of unhealthy bacteria on the tongue. Abnormal growth of Streptococcus and Lactobacillus can be harmful to your health. Lastly, regular scraping of the tongue can help improve speech. The words you utter from the mouth will be clearer and the communication will be more precise.
You should avoid rubbing your tongue with a toothbrush, as its bristles can damage your taste buds over time. Ayurvedic experts suggest using a gentle scraper made of an inert material like silver, gold-copper, or stainless steel. Using a proper scraper with a rounded edge ensures that all the waste material and toxins are removed from the surface of the tongue. This won’t be possible if you use a toothbrush.
Ideally, you should scrape your tongue once or maximum twice a day. Whether you do it in the morning or evening, make sure you do it in three strokes. The first stroke should be from the center to the tip of the tongue. The second and third ones should be made on the left and right sides of the tongue respectively.
Children as young as three years old can scrape their tongue, given that their premolars have developed completely. In rural regions of India, every child is taught this practice. The gag reflex that comes with it is believed to help get rid of the mucus that would otherwise cause chest congestion.
Oil pulling is a popular oral hygiene method practiced in the modern days, which is actually rooted in Ayurveda. This technique increases lubrication and stimulates the biofilm to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the oral cavity. Consequently, it helps keep the gut healthy.
People commonly use sesame, coconut, and sunflower oil for this purpose. All you have to do is to ingest 1 ½ teaspoon of oil and move it briskly around the mouth for three to five minutes so that the oil reaches every part of the oral cavity. When you spit it, it will look like a white creamy emulsified liquid.
Oil pulling lubricates the temporomandibular joint, which is responsible for chewing and talking. It also keeps it pain-free. Moreover, it cleanses the tongue and moisturizes the lips to prevent chapped lips. It also promotes the production of salivary secretions in the mouth and helps with a dry or burning mouth.
Apart from this, oil pulling gives a natural luster and shine to the cheeks and prevents premature aging of the skin.
It is best to do oil pulling after brushing your teeth. When you brush your teeth, the salivary glands in the mucous membrane tend to lose their hydration. Oil pulling will add a nice coating around the mouth for optimal oral health.
People with an upset stomach or digestive problems should NOT practice oil pulling. The same goes for those who have experienced a stroke or are struggling with some neurological problems. People with Bell’s Palsy and those with respiratory diseases should also avoid this practice.
Taking care of your oral health the Ayurvedic way offers a variety of benefits for overall health and well-being. It boosts confidence by ensuring that your mouth is clean and it smells good at all times. You’ll have a better sense of what to eat and what to avoid, which will ultimately make you look and feel healthier.
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