Ayurvedic dentistry has a long and storied past. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, travelers from the world over have visited India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan since the Old World, receiving care that is comparable to modern western standards. Despite this, the politicization of medicine has led to Ayurvedic dentistry being smeared as an alternative or unprofessional science. Quite the opposite, Ayurvedic dentistry is a viable unconventional form of care that can provide excellent outcomes for the patient.
The basic approach
Like many Ayurvedic areas of discipline, the main focus of dentistry in this regard is through the use of herbal mixtures. A review of Ayurveda literature conducted in 2015 by the Aligarh Muslim University found that there has been a recent influx in the amount of people using herbal remedies for their oral health, and that the efficacy of these solutions was comparable to western medicine. Another key aspect of the basic Ayurvedic approach to dentistry is the focus on knowledge and family and community based passing down of techniques. The best way to maintain oral health is, of course, prevention, with many dentists in eastern and western medicine focusing on family-wide health. The key here is the knowledge of how teeth are protected and when to seek medical health; as with all Ayurvedic practice, the use of spiritualism, herbal remedies and common sense come together to create basic care plans.
Where Ayurveda shines
Where Ayurveda led dentistry has really shone is in the use of natural, body-positive elements. In 2015, a review of Ayurvedic healthcare published by the Department of Public Health Dentistry in India highlighted that the long-term use of chewing sticks and techniques such as oil pulling have proven to have anti-carcinogenic and medicinal properties. This, in turn, has been seen to reduce inflammation in the mouth before issues such as abscesses can become a real problem, and has effectively helped to nip dental problems in the bud. Again, when paired with community knowledge that encourages children and young adults to chew on these sticks as a matter of habit, the end result is equivalent to the passed-down knowledge of brushing and flossing that has shown its effectiveness in western medicine.
Potential for improvement
As with all areas of medicine, Ayurvedic dentistry is open to criticism, and practitioners have been improving on the job for a long time. The main area where Ayurvedic dentistry can be improved is in surgical techniques. Theoretically, given the emphasis placed on prevention and good habits, there are few situations where Ayurveda falls short and cannot provide the same level of care as western medicine. However, as with many fields within Ayurvedic medicine, this is changing. The Hindustan Times report that Ayurveda practitioners are increasingly performing surgery and finding hospitals and clinics that are actively promoting their participation. As with any western doctor, the only barrier is simply the qualifications and related evidence that that person is, in reality, qualified to perform surgery. Pairing together this skill base of talented surgeons with the intrinsic knowledge and preventative wonders of Ayurveda medicine will promote Ayurvedic dentistry as a holistic source for oral health.
Ayurveda has had a hand in dentistry for as long as can be remembered, and some of the techniques used – oil pulling, medicinal chew sticks, and family knowledge – are conducive to good oral health. Where the practice lags behind is through surgery, but even this outlook is changing across modern India. Ayurvedic dentistry is little known, but will arguably reclaim its place as a reliable form of modern medicine.