In the first segment we learn about the Ayurvedic perspective on healthy teeth from Vaidya Mandar Bedekar. The most important determinant of the health of your teeth, Ayurvedically speaking, is the condition of your colon! Ayurvedic theory has it that when you have regular, complete evacuations of the contents of your colon you remove the toxins that build up in the large intestines. If the toxins stay out then the whole body stays healthy and strong, including one’s teeth. I’ve explored this concept more thoroughly in “The Belly of the East” on Nei Jing Now!
We are also informed that sweet tasting toothpaste is the nemesis of good oral health. The environment of the mouth is moist, damp, and a bit slimy, some of the qualities of kapha, or water and earth condensed. Ayurveda describes 6 main tastes, each producing a neuro-immuno-endocrine response in the body. Sweetness tends to increase the qualities of kapha in the body, heaviness, dampness, inertia, mucus, lubrication, stability, growth, as well as compassion, gentleness, and kindness. Using sweet toothpaste and ending our meals with dessert exacerbates the tendency of the mouth towards kapha. In order to balance these qualities Ayurveda recommends using herbs that are bitter, pungent, or astringent in taste. Astringent tastes tend to have a drying effect, balancing the moistness in the mouth. Pungent, or spicy, tastes in small quantities have a heating effect, balancing the cool quality and improving digestion and elimination. A tiny bit of bitterness balances kapha and improves the functioning of the liver. Neem, triphala, and turmeric are common herbs one can rub on the gums to balance the environment of the mouth and improve the health of the teeth. (Stay tuned for an upcoming shortie on the magic of triphala with Vaidya Vasant Lad.) In short, throw out your sweet tasting toothpaste, and eat dessert first!
Ayurveda recommends gargling in the morning and evening with warm water or a decoction of any herb that is bitter, pungent or astringent. Warm water is easiest and more practical. In addition, rinse your mouth after every single thing you ingest to keep your mouth fresh and clean. It’s not just enough to brush and floss twice a day. Tongue scraping is another Ayurvedic practice. If the gunk (that’s not a medical term) that accumulates on your tongue is not easily removed by scraping it is an indication that the digestion is not strong and the elimination not complete. Triphala is a generic tonic that safely improves digestion and elimination. More on this wonder formula to follow. Scraping the tongue also clarifies the perception of tastes which in turn increases the neuro-immuno-endocrine impact of the foods we eat. It’s a bit like cleaning your spectacles to gain clarity of vision. Here’s an easy tutorial on how to clean your tongue with a tongue scraper.
Conventional preventive oral health care would advocate for twice a day brushing and flossing to every single person on our over-populated planet. The trouble is the plastic. We’ll be buried in plastic toothbrushes and flossing string. My friend, colleague, and eco-collaborator, Beth Terry of My Plastic Free Life, who joined us for the We All Live in Bhopal events of Dec 2014, has done a thorough review of the eco-friendly toothbrushes available. Her favorite now is Brush with Bamboo. Eco-dent, seems to be the winner per Ms. Terry. They make a vegan waxed dental floss that comes in a recyclable package. The Ayurvedic perspective is that if you tend to the health of the gums the health of the teeth will follow. All you need for that is your finger to rub your gums with some bitter, pungent, or astringent herbs.
Dr. Gregg Goddard trained in and taught acupuncture for dentistry. He tells us how he devised a protocol for sham acupuncture which made it possible to conduct double blind controlled trials to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in dentistry. Acupuncture has been most widely used in the treatment of orofacial pain, temperomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), trigeminal neuralgia, otherwise known as tic douloureux, and adjunctive analgesia in dental procedures. Dentists can avail of relatively short training programs to gain competency in performing acupuncture. Here’s a short introduction to from the British Dental Journal. Dr. Goddard is the author of a book on self-care for orofacial pain: “TMJ, The Jaw Connection”, available at Aurora Press. Hoku, or Large Intestine 14, is a well-known acupressure and acupuncture point, located in the flesh between the thumb and the forefinger, which anyone can rub for pain management. Go ahead and give it a try. And for those of you with orofacial pain, remember to practice the mantra,“Teeth apart, Jaw Relaxed.” I’ve also reviewed various treatment modalities for TMJ on Nei Jing Now!
In addition to his expertise in acupuncture for dentistry, Dr. Goddard shares his experience serving in the Native American health care system and how dental caries was discovered to be caused by a bacteria transmitted from mother to infant. He also explains the toxicity and benefits of the use of fluoride and mercury in dental care. A little is ok, a lot is no good. The dose makes the poison and it needs to be very closely monitored. Some would argue that fluoride supplementation is completely unnecessary and the risks outweigh the benefits. I’ve discussed the fluoride issue more in-depth in “Fluoride: Friend or Foe” on Nei Jing Now! Many people are concerned about the mercury in their conventional fillings. However, the drilling and heating of the filling in the process of removal vaporizes the mercury, making it much more readily absorbed, and thus significantly more toxic than letting the sleeping dog lie. One can replace the conventional filling if and when it falls out on its own with a composite filling. But these contain fiberglass, also a substance you don’t want to put in your body. So avoid those cavities and concentrate on preventive oral health care. I refer you to the Ayurvedic recommendations outlined above.
And finally, Richard Loranger, author and poet shares with us the trying times he faced while half his teeth were falling out of his face. He was unable to chew properly or enjoy a variety of foods. He couldn’t eat anything hard. The loss was impacting his ability to speak and the frequency with which he smiled. He went through many dental procedures, complicated by a serious jaw infection. He responded, brilliantly I might add, by writing Poems for Teeth, available from We Press. These are not cute little poems about teeth. The are deep, moving, insightful poems, some lyrical and some angst laden. He offered each tooth a quality and wrote a poem in gratitude. Embedded within each poem, like a cavity in a tooth, is another smaller poem. In addition the book contains calligraphy by Richard and artist Eric Waldemar. It’s an inspiring story to hear and Richard generously reads his poem to his baby teeth for us. Enjoy! Explore his poetry. And take care of your teeth!