Going to the dentist can be a real drag, and is generally not something that we look forward to. However, it’s important to remember that our oral health sets the foundation for the rest of our body, so it’s imperative that we do everything possible to keep our gums, teeth, and mouth healthy. Ayurvedic tradition has long acknowledged and emphasized the importance of good oral health, dating back to the Shalyatantra and Shalakyatantra branches of Ayurveda. These texts mention 65 varieties of oral diseases that can arise in seven anatomic locations in or near the mouth, including eight on the lips, 15 on the alveolar margin (ridge above the top teeth and below the bottom that contains the sockets), eight in connection with the teeth, five on the tongue, and nine on the palate. This may seem shocking, but when you think of the important role that our mouth and teeth play on a daily basis it seems feasible.
Research in recent years has even indicated a strong connection between heart health and the gums, which is why dentists emphasize the importance of gum care at each visit. Moreover, studies have suggested that poor gum health can lead to microbes and bacteria infiltrating the bloodstream, which can irritate the arterial walls. Further, the link has been made between Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth, which spikes when a high sugar diet is consumed and unhealthy levels of buildup exist in arterial walls of heart patients. It’s also important to remember that our teeth are living tissues that need to be maintained, just like our organs and muscles.
Oil pulling and tongue scraping are two awesome ways to support your normal brushing and flossing routine, and we’ve detailed each below.
The Scoop On Tongue Scraping
According to Ayurvedic theory, the tongue is directly related to all of the vital organs in the body, so looking at the tongue is a helpful way to assess the overall health of the body. A white coating on the tongue, known as Ama, indicates the presence of improperly digested food in the intestinal tract, which can be an impediment to proper digestion (which is one of the most important systems in our body for removing toxins and properly eliminating waste). Scraping the tongue also enhances our sense of taste, getting our taste buds fired up more quickly and stoking the digestive fires and producing digestive enzymes to help us properly absorb and digest the foods we eat.
How To Do Tongue Scraping
Always start your day with tongue scraping and do so on an empty stomach. Scrape the tongue from back to front, reaching as far back in the mouth as possible. Rinse the tongue clean between scrapings and repeat 3-5 times to ensure that all bacteria is removed and to gently stimulate organs. Avoid plastic and opt for a stainless steel scraper, as the material is ideal for balancing all doshas.
The Scoop On Oil Pulling
The first mention of oil pulling comes from the ancient text Caraka Samhita. Caraka, a proponent of oil pulling says, “Keeping of oil gargle provides strength in jaws and voice, development of the face, maximum taste and relish of food. One does not suffer from dryness of throat, lip cracking and teeth become firmly rooted. The teeth do not ache or become sensitive and can chew the hardest food items.” Other claims from the late 1990s have touted huge benefits ranging from proper digestion to relief from aches throughout the body. These claims are not as widely studied, but what we do know is that the act of “pulling” oil through the teeth has a saponification, or cleansing effect on the gums and has also been shown to enhance immune support against foreign microbes.
How To Do Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is usually done with unrefined coconut or sesame oils, or a combination of the two, usually with added herbs like turmeric and peppermint to increase benefits. The process is much like swishing or gargling mouthwash. Practice oil pulling after tongue scraping each morning. Take about one tablespoon of oil in your mouth and swish for up to twenty minutes. Using coconut oil is great as it’s super nourishing and gentle but is also able to cut through plaque to remove or “pull” out toxins while also strengthening the teeth. Be cautious of spitting the oil into your sink as it could clog your pipes.
Both oil pulling and tongue scraping are great ways to get your mouth and body ready for a hard day of chewing, tasting, and digesting. Try both together for at least one week to start to notice the benefits. Oil pulling and tongue scraping is not meant to replace brushing and flossing, but used to complement your oral hygiene routine. Always follow tongue scraping and oil pulling with a thorough toothbrushing to be sure all of the toxins are removed that the oil pulls out of the gums and mouth.