ORAL HEALTH IN AYURVEDA
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Who would you approach first; someone with a beautiful smile that shows perfectly white and healthy teeth and gums or a person whose teeth are covered in tartar, have some missing are the colour of rotting pineapple? The answer is simple.
Oral hygiene is important not just from the aesthetical point of you but also from a health perspective. Research suggests that there is a connection between poor oral hygiene and high blood pressure, inflammation, heart diseases, osteoporosis, premature birth and Alzheimer’s disease! As you can see brushing your teeth has a bigger impact than you may think.
There are lots of products on the market that help you to achieve the desired diamond smile but how healthy are they for you? Your mouth is the most absorbent area of your body therefore you need to make sure that you use products that are safe. It might surprise you that the majority of oral products on the market are not as healthy as you’d think. Are you using Colgate toothpaste? Be aware! It contains a toxic triclosan, which is an endocrine disruptor, causing issues such as ovarian, breast, prostate cancer, precocious puberty in girls and premature birth. Fluoride, commonly known to form a layer of protection over your teeth is another toxic chemical that accumulates in your tissues over time and affects your nervous and endocrine system. It is a primary ingredient in cockroach and rat poison, hypnotic and psychiatric drugs and atomic bombs!!! Sounds shocking doesn’t it? A good reason to switch to fluoride-free toothpaste, such as one that contains the naturally occurring cacao extract theobromine that according to one study, repairs and re-mineralizes teeth better than fluoride toothpaste.
The sweetness of most toothpastes is due to the addition of aspartame, which can't be broken down into harmless formic acid by humans, causing huge damage to the tissues as it is very difficult to remove it from the body. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) is what makes toothpaste foam, but during its production it gets contaminated with carcinogenic by-product and is linked to canker sores and irritation. From the ayurvedic perspective sweet toothpaste thicken your saliva and increases calcium content, leading to tartar formation. To avoid it use a toothpaste that is bitter or astringent, containing herbs such as fennel, neem, clove, triphala or liquorice. When looking for a toothpaste make sure you go for an organic one (look for a green or blue strap code on the crimp at the closed end of toothpaste).
Do you think your mouthwash is any better? Ok it does give you the feeling of freshness and cleanliness but along with that it's loaded with harmful toxins that kill everything on its path. Sounds not too bad if you think that it destroys bacteria responsible for gum disease and bad breath but by doing it on a regular basis you increase you chance to developing resistant strains of bacteria. Most mouthwashes contain eucalyptol, which in higher doses affects your behaviour and respiration, nervous and reproductive system. Methyl Salicylate is another unwelcomed ingredient which can be lethal. A teaspoon of it contains around 7g of salicylate- an equivalent of twenty-three 300mg aspirin tablets. The smallest lethal dose for an adult is 101mg/kg body weight. Hexetidine (Oraldene) is a carcinogenic and causes sensory dysfunctions, allergic reactions and unstable heartbeat. And lastly Australian researches provide sufficient evidence that all mouthwashes containing alcohol contribute to the increased risk of oral cancer.
Even toothbrushes and dental floss are made of nylon which is a toxic plastic made from petroleum and BPA, PVC and phthalates, which are very dangerous to our health and the environment. Switch to a one that is made from natural materials such as wood, with soft fibres that don’t damage your enamel and gums (check out environmental toothbrush) or if you are into total naturalism chew on fresh neem, liquorice or miswaak stick!
There is much more on the list. So what to do to avoid this toxic overload? Ayurveda once again comes with a solution. It’s naturalistic approach and ancient wisdom provides effective yet safe oral hygiene.
My very favourite practice is the recent hit on the health platform that is oil pulling. It is a very powerful ayurvedic ritual with an endless litany of benefits, including strengthening of jaws, gums, teeth and voice, prevention of dryness of the throat, lip cracking, tooth ache, sensitivity, receding gums and even enhancing teeth whitening. But oil pulling’s benefits go far beyond whiter teeth and a clean mouth, it strengthens the immune system, heals eczema, ulcers, nerve diseases, insomnia and even infertility. It is a highly detoxifying ritual as the properties of the oil attract toxins (heavy metals, preservatives, parasites, pesticides, hormones, etc.) stored in our fat tissue and removing them through skin, our largest organ of elimination. This procedure is most beneficial if done first thing in the morning, using warm, organic, unrefined, cold-pressed oil, ideally coconut or sesame seed oil. Before you start, scrub off the white coating off your tongue with either a tongue scraper or silver tea spoon (use only stainless steel or copper ones as they prevent the building up of bacteria on the tools themselves). Make sure you warm up your oil before you start – I simply put mine in a small bottle and heat it up in a glass of warm water. Take a sip of warm oil and gargle for a minimum of 2 minutes, the longer the better, all around your mouth; you can do it while getting changed, taking shower or preparing your breakfast. Once finished, spit out the oil either to the toilet or container since the gargled oil contains bacteria pulled out from the body, which may be harmful. Always brush your teeth straight away using fluoride-free toothpaste.
For fresh breath chew some fennel seeds or drink an infusion of equal parts of cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves (1 teaspoon per cup).
Toothache can be treated with application of 3 drops of clove oil to the affected area. Clove has strong anti-septic and anti-microbial properties and is rich in minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, phosphorus as well as vitamin A and C.
Cold sores are effectively treated with an application of aloe vera gel on the affected area and taking some triphala with warm water at night.
Tea tree oil works wonders on sensitive and receding gums. Simply apply some on soft, moisten toothbrush and brush your teeth. For gums I recommend using cotton bud or pad with couple of drops of tea tree oil.
For swollen gums apply some turmeric directly on the affected area and bleeding gums can be treated by drinking orange juice with a pinch of cumin and raw honey.
Written by Aneta Podlaska, in house Ayurvedic Therapist.