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Friday 18 September 2015

Benefits of using Natural Chewing Sticks

For thousands of years, long before there was the first toothbrush, people have used chewing sticks, made from twigs of certain trees like Miswak, to clean their teeth.
The tree itself has antiseptic properties and it is comparable to other oral disinfectants and anti-plaque agents used today. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the usage of Miswak. So why are we all still using toothbrushes and tooth paste? I’ll leave the guessing to you..
Important things to keep in mind when using the Miswak:

The ideal diameter is 3-5mm.
When fresh it tastes (and should taste) a bit like pepper.
Daily washing and cutting is recommended.
Keep it in a clean sanitized area, as you would with a regular toothbrush.
If it becomes too dry, soak the end in rose water.
If possible, plant a Miswak tree at your home, so you have an unlimited and fresh supply.
Natural toothbrushes can also be made from the twigs or the Neem tree.
The First Bristle Tooth Brush in History
The first tooth brush, roughly as we know it today, was invented late in the 15th century. It was made from hairs of the Siberian wild boar attached to a bamboo stick and the inventor was Chinese.
Believe it or not, but this toothbrush, or variations thereof, was used until well into the 20th century, or 1938 to be more exact, when nylon was invented. The most famous variation of the Chinese invention was William Addis’s toothbrush invented in 1780 in England. It was made from bone and horse hair and was mass-produced.
Natural Teeth Whitening
There are many natural teeth whiteners, but be careful in following each and every advice you come across.
Some vegetables are natural abrasives and eating them scrubs your teeth in a natural and harmless way. They act like toothbrushes. These vegetables include carrots, celery and cucumbers.
Baking soda is a classic amongst natural teeth whitening methods, and is indeed harmless. It is very effective in removing stains and killing plaque-causing bacteria, and it also reduces acids which harm your tooth enamel.
There are many more methods for whitening, but some can cause too much damage to your teeth, which you will likely regret sooner or later. The most famous yet questionable home remedy is lemon. Lemons are good for many things, but whitening your teeth is not one of them!
The South African public’s dental IQ is very low in comparison with the rest of the world and many people do not replace their toothbrushes as often as they should, according to the South African Dental Association.
But what if it were possible to get the same oral hygiene provided by toothpaste and toothbrushes from cheap sticks, stems and roots?
Recent studies conducted at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and the Tshwane University of Technology found that African toothbrush sticks or chewing sticks contain antimicrobial (anti-bacterial) properties.
The researchers found that Zana, a chewing stick used in Ethiopia, has a good antimicrobial efficacy with minimum inhibitory concentration values ranging from between 0,25 to 4mg/ml -– meaning that it would take a small amount of the concentration to kill bacteria and keep your breath fresh.
According to the report, researched by Sandy van Vuuren, Alvaro Li and Ada Viljoen of the department of pharmacy and pharmacology at Wits, African toothbrush sticks have been used for centuries for the maintenance of oral hygiene.
The report says that most Ethiopians and Nigerians still use chewing sticks to clean their teeth. The World Health Organisation has also promoted the use of toothbrush sticks and has encouraged further research of their efficacy.
A study conducted by researcher Khalib Almas in 2001 showed there were various plants used as chewing sticks in West Africa, such as lime tree and the orange tree.
“The roots of the senna were used by American Negroes and those of African Laburnum were used in Sierra Leone. Neem is widely used to provide chewing sticks in the Indian subcontinent,” Almas said in the report, The Antimicrobial Effects of Seven Different Types of Asian Chewing Sticks.
Almas also wrote that the chewing sticks could be of great help in developing countries with limited oral health care facilities.
Van Vuuren says that the mechanical action of the chewing does quite a good job at removing plaque. She said that the Ethiopians sit and do it for quite a number of minutes.
“Compare that to brushing your teeth for only a minute or so,” she said.
She also said that chewing sticks can provide another alternative remedy for oral hygiene in poorer or rural areas in South Africa but that importing the sticks is expensive and therefore may hinder their sustainability.
An article published in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, Antibacterial Activity of Aqueous Extracts of Selected Chewing Sticks, explains how the sticks are made and used in Nigeria: “Chewing sticks are made from the roots, twigs and stems of plants.
“The preferred part or parts are cleaned with water to remove dirt, cut to convenient length, which varies from 15cm to 30cm, and tied into a bundle. The user holds one end directly in his mouth and chews it into a fibrous brush-like fringe, which is used to scrub the surfaces of the teeth.
“A combination of vertical and horizontal strokes of the brush on tooth surfaces removes plaque.”.
“Speaking in generalities, any brush or stick which removes plaque from teeth must be better than just letting the plaque lie on the teeth, provided the stick does not splinter and cause splinters to remain behind in the gum tissue or contain harmful chemicals which could irritate the gums,” he said.
South Africa’s dental IQ is very low, added Campbell. “Oral health education has been sadly lacking for most South Africans.”
The sticks taste “agreeable and not unpleasant”, according Almas’s study.
According to Almas’s study, the Babylonians recorded the use of chewing sticks in 7000 BC and their use ultimately spread throughout the Greek and Roman Empires. Chewing sticks were also used by Egyptians, Jews and in Islamic Empires.
“References to the chewing sticks can be found in the Talmud [biblical scripture] as the Quesum, the Siwak, Miswak and Arak … It is believed that the counterpart of the modern day toothbrush was unknown in Europe until 300 years ago,” the study said.
Perhaps, in order to find the solution for making sure that every South African takes care of their teeth, we need to go back to our roots.
Although it might sound outdated to use twigs from trees to clean one’s mouth and teeth, studies conducted on the Miswak prove otherwise, inferring that the Miswak is better than toothpaste for preventing gum disease.
But, first of all, why would anyone think of using a tree twig to clean their teeth? The fact is that ancient man did not have the facility of the modern day toothbrush; hence, many cultures have used the Miswak for oral hygiene. The reason for common use of the Miswak by Muslims can be attributed to religious beliefs. The Holy Last Messenger of Islam, Muhammed, used the Miswak frequently and instructed his followers to do the same.
The Miswak is obtained from the twigs of the Arak, or Peelu tree. Many others varieties are in common use, including walnut and olive.
There are 70 benefits of Miswak as known through ancient Islamic literature. Scientists of today have not yet attempted the study of some of these boons, while others have been proven by labs effective as stated. The benefits of the Miswak range widely; however, the main ones we are examining concern oral health.
A few important benefits of Miswak
· Kills bacteria that causes gum-disease.
· Fights plaque effectively.
· Fights against cavities.
· Removes bad breath and odors from the mouth.
· Creates a pleasant fragrance in the mouth.
· Effectively cleans between teeth due to its bristles being parallel to the handle, rather than perpendicular, which results in effective cleaning between the teeth.
· Increases salivation, thereby inhibiting dry mouth (Xerostomia).
Scientific Studies on Miswak
The Wrigley Company conducted a study on the Miswak which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2007 . Wrigley’s research concluded that mints laced with Miswak extract were 20 times more effective in killing bacteria than ordinary mints. A small testimony to this fact is that, after half an hour, the mints laced with Miswak extract killed about 60% of the bacteria where as the ordinary mints managed only 3.6%.
The study concluded that Miswak was more effective than toothbrushing in reducing plaque and gingivitis provided it was used correctly. Similar studies found on the same website and elsewhere vouch for the effectiveness of Miswak over toothbrush. “The miswak appeared to be more effective than toothbrushing for removing plaque from the embrasures, thus enhancing interproximal health,” stated the researchers.
There have been plenty of published studies on the Miswak and, in fact, entire books published which study its oral and systemic benefits.
With its strong antibacterial properties and perpendicular bristles, the Miswak is a natural toothbrush, toothpaste and floss combined and of course with no added sugar like some toothpaste tasting sweetly.


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