M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News Staff
RIYADH, 4 November 2003 — A panel of dentists at the King Saud University has revealed the medicinal properties of miswak or teeth cleaning sticks, suggesting that its beneficial effects for oral hygiene and dental health are equal to those of toothbrush and paste.
Miswak is popularly used in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, especially during Ramadan. It has many medicinal properties and can fight plaque, recession of gums, tooth wear, bleeding gums and periodontal pocket depths. “The repeated process of using chewing sticks releases fresh sap and silica (a hard glossy mineral), which acts as an abrasive material to remove stains,” the study said.
The study has been conducted by a group of dentists led by Dr. Khalid Almas, assistant professor at the KSU’s Department of Preventive Dental Sciences. The study explains that the miswak also releases a substance that soothes toothache.
“It is also used to prevent oral habits such as smoking in adults and thumb sucking in children. It may also improve appetite and regulate peristaltic movements of the gastro-intestinal tract,” said the study.
The study added that a clinical trial among adolescents showed that chewing the sticks was as effective in controlling dental plaque as toothbrush and paste.
In the Middle East, the most common source of chewing sticks has been the Arak (Salvodora Persica) tree, also known as toothbrush tree.