I have some really great information to share with you today about oral care. I am weirdly obsessed with keeping my mouth and teeth clean and healthy (I’ve never even gotten cavity! *knocks on wood*) and have utilized many of the following practices for years to maintain this health.
It is only recently that I started reading about the connection between these practices and Ayurveda– and specifically how they work to keep the mouth clean and detoxed on both a physical and energetic level. All of these practices are super easy to incorporate into your existing oral care routine, and are a safe and natural way to maintain great oral hygiene. 🙂
Before we get into things…
I just wanted to give a brief explanation of Ayurveda for those of you not familiar with it. Ayurveda is one of the oldest holistic health systems in the world, and originated in India thousands of years ago (4,000 or 5,000 to be more precise). The word “Ayurveda” comes from “ayus”, meaning “life”, and “veda”, meaning “knowledge” or “science” in Sanskrit. Ayurveda is centered around the idea that true health is the product of a balanced connection between the mind, body, and spirit. It is easy to focus solely on the physical when we talk and think about “health,” but paying attention to the spiritual and mental components is key to realizing your true wellness.
So here are some techniques to incorporate on a regular basis to keep up excellent oral health:
1. Oil pulling
Oil pulling has recently become more popular as a practice, but it originated thousands of years ago. It involves vigorously swishing heated coconut oil, sesame oil, or sunflower oil in your mouth for several minutes to pull out various toxins. Oil pulling is believed to extract bacteria, parasites and other toxins from your teeth, gums and mucus membranes. Some say to do it for 10-20 minutes, but I have read that even 5 minutes is enough time for it to take effect. I use coconut oil and heat it a bit before swishing. I don’t do this daily but several times a week I am sure to make the time.
2. Rinsing/ gargling with warm salt water
Every morning and night after I brush my teeth I gargle and swish (vigorously!) with warm salt water. Salt water is beneficial for a couple reasons: one is due to its alkalizing properties. It temporarily increases the pH in the mouth, deterring bacterial growth which flourish in acidic environments. Also, bacterial cells need water to survive and grow and salt water draws water out of these cells.
I keep a little container of pink Himalayan salt at my sink and put about a half a teaspoon of salt in a glass, add warm (almost hot) water, stir it around to let the salt dissolve a minute, then swish and gargle the water for about 30 seconds.
3.Using a tongue scraper
My mom had me using a tongue scraper since I was little and I never asked why! Now I know how great it is for you and I’ve gotten back into it morning and night. Using a tongue scraper daily “removes any build-up on the tongue, which, if left untreated, can lead to bad breath and may house a significant number of bacteria. This simple practice is a direct way of removing Ama from your physiology. In Ayurveda, Ama refers to any accumulation of toxic residue in the mind-body.” (source: kimberlysnyder.com)
Again, the importance of this practice is shared by its physical outcome of removing leftover bacteria and energetically removing toxic residue from your body. I just think this is so beautiful and I am always willing to incorporate practices that cleanse my body of toxic energy. You can find them at drug stores or supermarkets. (I even keep a tongue scraper at work now and do it after lunch!)
4. Rinsing your mouth out with water before and after a meal
This is something I’ve just started doing and it’s so easy you can do it anywhere you are. Just rinsing normally with water before and after a meal also works toward removing ama from your body. It is particularly useful for when you are unable to brush your teeth after a meal. (Another little trick I do at work and on the go 😉 )
I wanted to add that there is a lot of value in feeling “clean” beyond just the physiological cleanliness of a practice. When you shower, floss, or use a tongue scraper, you feel fresh and clean afterwards and that is also an indicator of your energetic cleanliness. Pay attention when you have this sensation. It is more than just the physical that it seems. Your body is always talking to you and giving you signs of how to maintain/encourage its health so we just have to listen to it. <3
photo of coconut oil: pureformulas.com, Creative Commons Attribution license