Ayurvedic Way Of Teeth Brushing And Tongue Scraping

Since thousands of years, Ayurveda recommends brushing teeth. In ancient India, people used to use twigs of herbs as tooth brush. Even in many parts of India, you can see many people using twigs of certain plants and trees for brushing. We often see that the incidence of dental caries is lesser in them than those who use regular pastes and brushes. Let us find out the benefits of ancient method of tooth brushing.

Indian selling neem twigs for teeth brushing
Indian selling neem twigs for teeth brushing

Twigs –
During ancient times, twigs of trees were used as tooth brush. There was no need of any toothpaste because, the twig itself was having required medicinal qualities. The edge of the twig was chewed to form bristles.  The bristles were sufficient to reach all corners of teeth and clean them.  The medicinal qualities of the herb is sufficient enough to prevent caries and plaque forming.

Video explanation


The plants selected should have astringent, pungent or bitter taste.
Bitter tasting herbs like Neem, Asana – have potent antimicrobial property, which is very beneficial for oral cavity hygiene. Also, bitter taste helps to improve taste and fight bad breath and anorexia.
Pungent tasting herbs help to improve salivation, helping to flush out toxins from mouth.
Astringent tasting herbs such as Khadira (Acacia catechu), help to heal gum wounds and oral ulcers. This also helps to fight bad breath.

neem twig as tooth brush
neem twig as tooth brush

Plants for dental brush

Nimba – neem twigs 
Karanja (Pongamia pinnata),
Khadira – Acacia catechu
Arka – (Calotropis gigantean R.Br.ex Ait),
Malati (Aganosma dichotoma K. Schum),
Kakubha – Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna W.&A),
Asana (Terminalia Tomentosa W.&A).
Tejohva – toothache tree
Vata (Ficus benghalensis) – Bengal fig.
Shisham – Dalbergia sissoo
Yashtimadhu – Licorice (only the one, which is sweetish, but yet mentioned as tooth brush).

To use the twig as a tooth brush, the thickness of the twig should be approximately equal to the tip of one’s little finger. It should be 12 Angula length (approx 22.6 cm). The tip of the twig should be chewed a little to make it as a brush.

tip of twig made into brush
tip of twig made into brush

Interesting fact about meswak

Meswak – Peelu / Pilu – Salvadora persica – this herb is marketed now-a-days as the twig of choice for tooth brush of ancient times. But quite interestingly, this herb has not been enlisted as the tooth brush of choice both in Chakara Samhita and Ashtanga Hrudayam, though this herb is mentioned by both, for many other purposes, on many other occasions, except for brushing teeth.
That does not mean that meswak does not make a good tooth brush. It just might be the case that it was not commonly used for the purpose of brushing teeth.

Tooth pastes

Nowadays, lot of herbal tooth pastes are in the market. I really doubt their benefits, nevertheless, they seem to be better than all chemical pastes. All these pastes do is, to produce some froth giving us a mental satisfaction that some rinsing is happening on the teeth. Of course, they help to get rid of bad breath problem, at least temporarily, but the same can be achieved simply by chewing a clove or cardamom.

Tooth powders

I rate tooth powders (herbal or otherwise) higher than tooth paste. At least, they are solid enough to reach corners of teeth angles which, any brush of any number of grooves and sizes fail to reach.
Read related: Make your own tooth powder at home
Example for traditional tooth powder – 
Dashana samskar churna
Dasanakanti Choornam

Tongue scraping

Tongue scrapers, which should not be sharp edged and are curved are to be made of metals like gold, silver, copper, tin and brass.
The dirt deposited at the root of the tongue,  gives rise to foul smell; so the tongue should be scraped regularly.

References

Charaka Samhita Sutrasthana 5th chapter
Ashtanga Hrudaya Sutrasthana 2nd chapter  

Q: Sir, I started doing daatan(stick) of neem in place of tooth brush daily. I’ve stopped using toothpaste. Does use of neem daatan daily will not reduce aphrodisiac health? Also is there any side effect of neem daatan on tooth?

Answer: Daily use of neem stick surely does not reduce aphrodisiac health and it is very good to use it daily. Please continue.

Tooth powder simple recipe

Can you give a combination of herbs for making our own tooth powder?
You can use equal amounts of
neem powder
Khadira (Kattha) powder
Yashtimadhu – Licorice powder – This will add slight sweetness and masks the bitterness of neem.
Clove powder – This will give a good fragrance to the combination and freshness to mouth.

25 thoughts on “Ayurvedic Way Of Teeth Brushing And Tongue Scraping”

  1. Thank you. It is very informative article.
    In my country during communism there were very poor tooth pastes and tooth problems were very common. Now the situation has improved significantly. Officials say that one of the reason is fluorine included in the tooth pastes.
    On the other hand, there are some people that consider fluorine as a harmful substance.
    Can you explain the role of fluorine used in many chemical pastes? Does Ayurveda allow to use fluorine? What tooth paste to buy?

    All the best

    Reply
  2. Very nice information. Another tree which is used for this toothbrushing purpose is the eucalyptus, and sometimes the hibiscus bush. Once you start to brush with Ayurvedic kind of brush it feels so good. Unlike a regular toothbrush with paste where you feel like finishing in less than a minute, a nice neem brush attracts you to keep brushing for up to 10 or even 30 minutes, if you have the time. You will have to get used to a feeling of woody splinters around the gums. Another thing against paste: Most have glycerine in them which supposedly takes 20 rinses to remove from the tooth. Combine this with the noxious chemical, flouride, it’s easy to see that toothpaste stuck on the teeth would actually contribute to lack of health.

    Reply
  3. How about Oil Puling before brushing the teeth? I came to know and practice occasionally. It adds support to my cough related remedies.

    Reply
  4. Hello, Dr JV Hebbar,
    Thank you very much for this information. I have a question: is it possible to buy these twigs online? The fact is I don’t live in India and it’s impossible to find these twigs in my country because those plants don’t grow here.
    Kind regards

    Reply
  5. THANK u for your article. Now a days, the dentists are making good money because we do not take care of our teeth in a scientific way.
    To supplement your article, I describe a tooth powder made from neem leaves. This is simple enough and cheap enough which every one can afford.

    Take a bunch of neem leaves (because it is not practicable to take neem twig daily) and let it dry in shade (not in Sun day light). Make it as powder in mixie. Add 1/4th qty of Saindhavana Lavana powder form, + 1/10th (aprx) of good camphor. Preserve it in a bottle.

    Every morning apply all over the gums / teeth, wait for 5 minutes without immediately spitting. Then lightly brush and wash. The gum diseases, mouth ulcers, tooth decay can effectively avoided. People may try and give some feed back.

    Reply
  6. DEAR Dr Hebbar,
    1. ayurveda therapy or treatment is very old. we all read in numerous magazines , papers etc about these ailments and treatments.
    2. i am however very sceptical as no modern research , proof testing, or scientific approval has been accorded to these practices.
    3. No of frauds, like MEDICINES CONTAINING HIGH DOSES OF ALCOHOL, DRUGS, ALKOLOIDS ETC ARE MIXED IN THESE AYURVEDIC TREATMENTS.
    4. pl explain the various research going on in ayurveda..
    regards.

    Reply
    • Because a floss can remove food particles from corners of teeth where a toothbrush can never reach, I do not have any problem with it.

      Reply
  7. Tongue scraping is usually done after clearing bowels in the morning. But is it advised to avoid tongue scraping at night (with full bowels)?

    Reply
    • I have not come across a reference to avoid it in evening.
      The idea must that, if done after food, it may induce reflex vomiting.

      Reply
  8. Is there an Indian / Ayurvedic name for the Tounge Cleaning/Scraping… very curious ????
    Thank you!

    Reply
  9. Doctor, to make herbal tooth powder ourselves, can we mix 50% Neem bark powder and 50% Khadira powder? Or any other suggestion?

    Reply
  10. One observation I had about the tooth powder preparation was that Neem bark powder was more rough on the teeth and gums. Instead, Neem leaf powder as suggested by you is better since it is more gentle.

    Reply

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