I wanted to do an analytical report on how dental treatments have changed over time. Once upon a time (circa 5000BC) Ayurveda used essential oils to treat the teeth with exceptional success. Then came the age old practices of dental surgical correction.
Fast forward to the 1950s, and modern medicine is re-inventing the same wheel – using oils (clove oil etc) for dental treatment, using natural origin substances like plant extracts for building tooth health, and dental surgery to both correct malformed teeth, and to fill in damaged areas of teeth. Yes we’ve pretty much come full circle, and now even use plant-source Epoxy to fill in the cavities and match the colour of the filling to the tooth with precision!
But, don’t take my word for it. The whole point of writing this is to make an analytical comparison – and you get to be the judge!
Let’s start with Modern Medicine:
For this I refer liberally to wikipedia and my neighbourhood dentist. Whatever I’ve written here I’ve confirmed with an actual dentist, so it may be considered gospel.
Braces: Are your teeth out of alignment? Let’s put metal, plastic or rubber braces around them to bring them ‘back into alignment’!
Tooth brush: Use a brush to scrub off any bacteria and apply powders and pastes of various lab manufactured chemicals.
Tooth paste: The lab manufactured chemicals you use a tooth brush to scrub into your teeth – including animal bone ash, glycerin, and powdered limestone – mixed in with fluoride and whatnot.
Decay: Inevitable given modern tooth ‘care’ does not involve wellness; and when it happens the tooth turns black. Nobody is able to explain why precisely a cavity forms in one area of the tooth and not the other – even though both parts are equally affected by food, water, etc. I’ve asked my dentist more than once only to get blank stares in return.
Tooth repair: The craft of crafts. Cut, copy, paste using astringent chemicals, silver amalgum and various other trickly substances. Finishes off the day by giving your tooth what looks like a silver wart in its surface. More modern tooth-fix mixes are based around plant-derived epoxy, which can be coloured to match your tooth colour more closely.
Root canal: Tooth decay gotten real deep? No problem, let’s just kill the tooth! Root canals involve removing the pulp and ‘infected’ tissue/tooth part and replacing it with an equivalent.
Do you notice how tooth repair / root canal do not involve using calcium based substances (i.e. tooth-like substances) to fix the tooth?
Tooth pulling: Scientifically inject the gums with a numbing agent, and then tug at the tooth till it comes off. Who cares if it hurts – it’s ‘needed’!
Dentures: You can’t chew without teeth can you… Let’s plug in a plastic replacement. Tada!
The poisonous parts of your toothpaste of course cannot be neglected:
1. Sodium Fluoride
Dentists have trumpeted the virtues of fluoride for years, claiming it’s the best defense against tooth decay. Fluoride supposedly builds strong, healthy teeth. In reality, sodium fluoride, a by-product of aluminum manufacturing, can also be found in rat poisons and industrial pesticides. According to the Akron Regional Poison Center, ingesting 1/10 of an ounce of fluoride can kill a 100-lb. adult. Ingesting even a small amount of sodium fluoride may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
Found most often in anti-bacterial products, triclosan supplements many toothpaste brands. Unfortunately, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies triclosan as a pesticide, stating it poses a risk to both human health and the environment.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Added as a detergent and cleansing agent, sodium laurel sulfate poses a wide range of potential health risks. On its own, sodium laurel sulfate can damage eyes, irritate skin and lead to labored breathing. According to the American College of Toxicology, sodium laurel sulfate may stay within the body for up to five days, accumulating in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.
4. Propylene Glycol
An active component in antifreeze, propylene glycol acts as a wetting agent and surfactant in toothpaste. The Material Safety Data Sheets for propylene glycol warn that the chemical can be rapidly absorbed through the skin, with prolonged contact leading to brain, liver and kidney abnormalities. The EPA won’t allow its workers to handle propylene glycol without wearing rubber gloves, yet it doesn’t stop the chemical from being used in common health care products.
Consumers find diethanolamine, or DEA, in products that foam, including toothpaste. DEA disrupts hormones and forms cancer-causing nitrates. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of environmental health at University of Illinois, repeated skin exposure to DEA can lead to increased risk of liver and kidney cancers.
And your teeth are goodish as newish.
Now, on to Ayurveda and traditional holistic dental care!
I’ll be referring quite liberally to this amazing study by Abhinav Singh and Bharathi Purohit. The work that they’ve put into it deserves recognition. This was the most well collated study of ayurvedic methods I could find.
Braces: No such thing. Proper dental maintenance from the time of the Milk Teeth result in excellent formation of teeth, and there is no need for such raw corrective action.
Tooth brush: No such thing. We use a chewing stick – from Neem, Arjuna, Catechu or other such trees. Their sap is a disinfectant, mouth-odour removal agent, and the scrubbing action from chewing the stick is better than most modern toothbrushes. Yes even compared to the ‘electric toothbrush’ or whatever they come up with tomorrow.
Tooth paste: No need for this at all. The chewing sticks contain enough sap to last a whole brushing cycle and more.
Daily treatments: This is unique to ayurveda.
- Kavala / Gandusha involves swilling a bit of oil around the mouth for 10-15 minutes (also called ‘oil pulling’). Oil pulling is a powerful detoxifying Ayurvedic technique that has recently become popular as a remedy for many different health ailments. Surgery or medication could be prevented for a number of chronic illnesses by using this method. The oil therapy is preventative as well as curative.
- Tissue regeneration – using Amla / the Indian Gooseberry as a mouth rinse as a decoction. One to two grams per day can be taken orally – in dried form or in capsules – for long-term benefit to the teeth and gums. Herbs such as amla that support the healing and development of connective tissue when taken internally also benefit the gums. The healing effect of these tonics take longer to become apparent since they must saturate the whole body in order to work on the gums. The results, however, are more lasting.
Decay: The Amla regeneration is pretty amazing in itself. In addition, Bilberry fruit and hawthorn berry stabilize collagen, strengthening the gum tissue. Liquorice root promotes anti-cavity action, reduces plaque, and has an antibacterial effect. Teeth are considered to be bone tissue in Ayurveda. The tooth sockets functions the same way as joint. Herbs taken internally to strengthen Astidhatu (translated: 8-metals or essential-metals), i.e. the skeleton and the joints, are good for long-term health of the teeth. Outstanding examples include yellow dock root, alfalfa leaf, cinnamon bark, and turmeric root.
Tooth repair: Not needed. With the correct tooth health and wellness routines, there’s nearly no decay for life.
Root canal: Not needed.
Tooth pulling: Not needed.
Dentures: Teeth remain strong enough to crack walnuts and chew sugarcane at 90. I don’t see the need for dentures…
So there it is in black and white. Powerful dental solutions from Ayurveda and the modern practices – now you know exactly what works and what doesn’t.