Face Lift: 2023

teeth

Words: Dr Ambika P NAYAK

Your face is the index of your mind and smile the language that everyone understands. Achieving and maintaining good dental hygiene gives us a confident and healthy smile.

Well, the causes of bad breath [halitosis], which only the other person would know, and not you, are manifold. It could be as simple as indigestion, or other systemic conditions, viz., chronic gastritis, diabetes, sinusitis, bronchitis, liver and kidney diseases, etc., what with the most common factor being poor oral hygiene. The body constitution of the individual too plays a role. Individuals with pitta dominance are prone to bad breath, when they are not in synchronous balance.

Let’s return, this New Year, to forgotten regimens — or, back to our ‘root.’ Ayurveda explains the following regimens for maintenance of good oral health and prevention of local oral issues.

Danta Dhāvana [Brushing the teeth]

Ayurveda texts elucidate the usage of sticks from trees, like Madhuka [Glycyrrhiza glabra], Karañja [Pongamia pinnata], Nimba [Azadirachta indica], Khadira [Acacia catechu] and others possessing bitter [tikta rasa], astringent [kaṣāya rasa] and hot [kaṭu rasa] tastes for brushing the teeth.

A stick should be about 25-30cm long, with one end made brush-like, the breadth being as thick and equal to the tip of your little finger. Brushing is to be done with care without injuring the gums. Though no one uses a brush such as this today, who are we kidding — don’t we still see a similarity in everything?

The right way of brushing the teeth is to be gentle and move in the direction of the teeth, and be extra gentle over the gum line — the pressure applied may not only injure the gums, but also ‘push’ the gums, making it loose. Over time, the grip of the teeth is lost. You’d, therefore, do well to replace the toothbrush regularly and wash it every time, before and after use, and keep it in a clean place. Regular brushing of teeth helps to remove plaque and germs, prevents tooth decay, improves taste perception, prevents diseases of the teeth-tongue-mouth, gives a light and fresh feeling in the mouth and maintains good oral hygiene.

The brushing the teeth conjures the idea of super heroine’s sudden appearance, like an apsarā emerging from the sky, uttering, kya aap ka toothpaste mein namak hai? — that’s the famed Colgate active salt toothpaste advert for you, yes. The same brand also has toothbrushes filled with charcoal.

The practice of using salt and charcoal existed ages ago. But, there was a time when these practices were forgotten when so-called modern research ‘propagated’ the idea that these practices were harmful to oral health. Well, the same practices, thanks to a twist, or delicate, or improvised formulae, have become a marketing strategy today.

Salt and charcoal have the ability to cleanse, bleach and kill germs, naturally. Charcoal, with its activated carbon, is a good adsorbent; it has been used to cleanse water since centuries. It adsorbs unwanted gases; it is, therefore, used in gas masks too. Injudicious use of salt, or charcoal, directly over the teeth, however, can corrode the enamel. You ought to be, therefore, cautious with its use. 

Jihwā Nirlekhana [Tongue scraping]

The tongue scraper used by our forebears was made of gold, silver, or copper. The length of the scraper was suggested to be about 20cm. Now, we know where the multinationals and others that introduced tongue scrapers got the idea from. The scraping should be done gently to not injure the tongue. Tongue carries all the taste buds. Scraping the tongue helps better functioning of these taste buds and prevents the chance of bad mouth odour due to growing bacteria. It also relieves stiffness of the tongue.

Kavala [Colloquially known as oil pulling]

In this, the mouth is filled with any liquid: medicated oil/ghee, fresh juice extracted from herbs, herbal decoctions, milk, or plain water, which is decided depending on the body type, or oral conditions, if any, including seasons etc., and is ‘moved’ within and from cheek to cheek. The liquid should preferably be just tepid. This cleanses the oral cavity, relieves sensitivity of teeth, and gives a natural feeling of freshness in the mouth.

Gaṇdūṣa [Where stillness is supreme] 

This procedure of kavala is replete with a slight variation — in gaṇdūṣa, the liquid taken in the mouth is maintained ‘still’ without any movement. This helps strengthen the tongue, the muscles of the cheek and gums.

Oil pulling. The term has gained popularity worldwide for all its health benefits. This is nothing but kavala, aptly called ‘oral pulling.’

The daily oral regimes help us in maintaining oral health and sporting a beautiful smile and emanating pleasant oral odour too.

As author Jay Danzie puts it, “Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card. How you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

So, say ‘cheese,’ with a lovely smile, and healthy teeth, mouth and gums, this New Year, and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Dr AMBIKA P NAYAK, MD [Ayurveda], is Founder & Managing Director of Ayurvedeeyam, a speciality Ayurveda Clinic in Bengaluru. Her passion for the ancient, yet ‘completest’ natural medical system, and professional clinical skills are keyed to raising awareness for Ayurveda as a first choice of treatment for illness and healthy living, just as much as her axiom, Svasthasya svāsthya rakṣaṇaṃ — the age-old, fundamental principle of Ayurveda. Dr Nayak, who has presented papers and participated in national and international symposia, is also a strong advocate of panchakarma, thanks to its fully holistic and proven therapeutic efficacy in the treatment and prevention of illness, or disease.

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