Are there scientific researches showing that miswak is useful?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Natural Sticks or Chewing Sticks

Chewing sticks obtained from various trees in various parts of the world are used for cleaning the mouth with their local names. It is said that Babylonians used the chewing sticks for the first time. It was later used by Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians and Muslims.

The main source of chewing sticks in the Middle East countries is Arak tree (Salvadora Persica). In West Africa, chewing sticks are obtained from lemon (citrus aurantafolia) and orange (citrus sinensis) trees; in America, they are obtained from the roots of senna (cassia sieberianba). The tree called laburnum (cassia sieberianba) is also used in some regions (Sierra Leone).

The chewing sticks obtained from Arak tree and known as miswak are used. Arak or Salvadora persica is also called tooth brush tree. Misvak is called the natural tooth-brush in English. The top parts of the sticks of 12 to 15 cm are peeled and these parts are put into water. After being left in the water for a few hours, they are removed and they are chewed until they are transformed into fibers. When they become like brush bristles, they are ready to use. Due to this process, they are mistakenly called chewing sticks. Actually, this term is wrong because miswak is used like a brush; it is not chewed.  

In terms of the religion of Islam, miswak is a sunnah of wudu according to Hanafi madhhab and a sunnah of prayer according to Shafii madhhab. It gains man thawabs when it is used. According to the religion of Islam, miswak has many physiological benefits besides dental health.

Dental Benefits of Miswak:

It strengthens the gums, removes the plaques effectively, whitens the teeth, prevents decaying, cleans and whitens the teeth, removes bad smell and eliminates toothache.

Physiological Benefits

It improves the sense of taste, strengthens the mind and intelligence, helps digestion, strengthens the sight, is beneficial to the whole body; it brightens the faces of those who use it constantly.

The benefit of miswak scientifically is explained in three ways:

The mechanical effect of fibrils is explained by the effect of the chemical substances secreted from miswak and the combination of these two.

Miswak is used like holding a pencil or a brush. It is applied longer than a brush (five to ten minutes). As it is used with up and down movements, the facial parts of the teeth are cleaned better.

It is reported in the chemical analysis of miswak that it includes substances that are useful to oral health like trimethylamine, salvadorine, chloride, fluoride, silica, sulfur, vitamin C, saponins, tannins, flavonoids and sterols.

The results of some studies

Gazi et al reported that plaque accumulation decreased effectively when miswak was used five times a day. Darout et al reported that there were some antimicrobial anionic compounds such as chloride, sulfate, thiocyanate and nitrate in miswak (aqueous extracts).

Elvin-Lewis attributes the antimicrobial effect of miswak its containing saliva peroxidase.

It was reported that streptococcus mutans decreased in saliva samples of those who used miswak more than those who used brushes. It was also reported that miswak decreased the saliva pH due to the chlorite it contains.

These sticks (miswak rods) clean the plaque forming on the teeth mechanically and by entering into chemical reactions with the substances forming the plaque. It is understood that these sticks contain fluoride, silicon, alkaloids, volatile vegetable oils, resins, chewing gum, tannins and anthraquinones that whiten and protect the teeth, and that they improve swelling and bleeding by stimulating gums, along with cleaning the teeth.

The World Health Organization adopted and recommended miswak as an alternative to toothbrush for oral hygiene practices in 1987.

Reference:

1. Wu CD, Darout IA, Skaug N: Chewing sticks: timeless natural toothbrushes for oral cleansing. J Periodont Res 2001; 36: 275-284.
2. Almas K.. The Effect of Salvadora Persica Extract (Miswak) and Chlorhexidine Gluconate on Human Dentin: A SEM Study. J Contemp Dent Pract 2002 August;(3)3: 027-035.
3. Almas K, Al-Zeid Z. The Immediate Antimicrobial Effect of a Toothbrush and Miswak on Cariogenic Bacteria: A Clinical Study J Contemp Dent Pract 2004 February;(5)1:105-114.
4. Darout IA, Albandar JM, Skaug N, Ali RW. Salivary microbiota levels in relation to periodontal status, experience of caries and miswak use in Sudanese adults. J Clin Periodontol 2002; 29: 411–420
5. Darout IA, Albandar JM, Skaug N. Periodontal status of adult Sudanese habitual users of miswak chewing sticks or toothbrushes. Acta Odontol Scand 2000;58:25-30.
6. Tubaishat RS, Darby ML, Bauman DB, Box CE. Use of miswak versus toothbrushes: oral health beliefs and behaviours among a sample of Jordanian adults Int J Dent Hygiene 3, 2005; 126–136
7. Al.lafi T, Abahneh H. The effect of the extract of the Misvak (chewing sticks) used in Jordan and the Middle East on oral bacteria. International Dental Journal 1995; 45: 218-222.
8. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended and encouraged the use of these sticks as an effective tool for oral hygiene.

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