What does Islam say about "Dental Health"?

The Details of the Question
I am a dentist and writing a presentation on Dentistry and Islam. Please inform us about Dental health in Islam...
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"Cleanness" is an important aspect of Islam. Please read the article given below.


The part cut from the branches of a fruitless, fragrant tree called arak, which is very beneficial and which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised seriously and which functions as a toothbrush. A tiny branch of tree used for cleaning the teeth. The plural form of miswak is “masawik”. Siwak is synonymous with miswak and it is mentioned more in hadiths. Its plural form is “aswika.”

The religion of Islam gives great importance to cleanness and deems cleanness as a sign of faith. It is possible to find commands and advices pertaining to keeping the body, the place where prayer will be performed, the workplace or the house, even the shady spots or similar picnic places where people settle down in order to rest clean. Some points about cleanness of the body, which emerge from the human nature and which the previous prophets have performed, are mentioned. Cutting the nails, removing the hairs in the armpits and the groins, shortening the long parts of the moustaches, being circumcised and especially keeping the teeth clean are among them. (For the cleaning pertaining to human nature see Muslim, Tahara, 56; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 29; Tirmidhi, Adab, 14; Nasa’i, Zinat,1; Ibn Majah, Tahara, 8; Ahmad b. Hanbal, IV, 264, VI, 138).

Cleaning the teeth also takes place among the practices of the previous prophets. “Four things are from the practices of the prophets: the feeling of modesty (chastity), scent, cleaning the teeth and marriage” (Tirmidhi, Nikah, 1; Ahman bin Hanbal, V, 421).

Siwak and miswak used for cleaning the teeth also have an aspect pertaining to worship. According to Hanafis (a school of Islamic jurisprudence named after Imam Abu Hanifa), it’s a sunnah (a practice of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) of the wudu (ablution) and according to Shafi’i (a school of Islamic jurisprudence named after Imam Shafi’), it’s a sunnah of the salat (prayer). In that way, every time wudu is done or every salat time before salat, cleaning the teeth was aimed every day regularly.

As it is related from Aisha, the Messenger of Allah stated the following: “The merit of the salat performed after using a miswak is seventy times of the salat performed without using a miswak.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, Musnad, VI, 272). Since the hadith is not very clear, the school of Hanafi states the merit occurs by using miswak while doing the wudu and the school of Shafi’i states the merit occurs by using miswak before the salat.

In another hadith, the attention is attracted to cleaning the teeth besides salat as follows: “If it would not be difficulty for my ummah (community), I would order them to use miswak before every salat.” (Bukhari, Jum’a, 8, Tamanni, 9, Sawm, 27; Muslim, Tahara, 42; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 25; Tirmidhi, Tahara, 18; Nasa’I, Tahara, 6, Mawakit, 20; Ibn Maja, Tahara, 7; Ahmad bin Hanbal, I, 80, 120, II, 245, 250, 259, 287, 399, 400, 429, 433, 460, 509, 517, 531, IV,114, 116, V, 193, 410, VI, 325, 329). On the other hand, several hadiths were related about the Prophet’s using miswak while doing wudu. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) who had spent a night with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said the following: “Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) got up near the end of night. He went out, looked at the sky and then he recited those two verses of the Surah (chapter of the Holy Qur’an) Al Imran: “Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed Signs for men of understanding, Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (with the thought): Our Lord! You have not created this in vain! Glory to you, give us salvation from the penalty of the fire.” (Qur’an, The Family of Imran (Al Imran); 190,191 (3: 190,191)). Then he returned back home. He used miswak to clean his teeth and he did the wudu. He stood up and performed the salat. Then, he lay down on his side. Then, again he got up and went out, he recited the same verses by looking at the sky. Then he returned and cleaned his teeth by using miswak again, he did the wudu, then he stood up and performed the salat.” (Muslim, Tahara, 47, Musafirin, 183, 191; Abu Dawud, Tahara, 30; Ahmad bin Hanbal, I, 275, 350, V, 312).

It is observed that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to use miswak without pertaining to wudu or salat, especially he used to be careful at cleaning his teeth before reading the Noble Qur’an. The purpose at using miswak is cleaning the mouth. That general purpose is pointed in the following hadith: “Use miswak. Certainly, miswak is a cleansing for the mouth.” (Bukhari, Sawm, 27; Nasa’I, Tahara, 4; Ibn Majah, Tahara, 7; Darimi, Wudu, 19). It is narrated that the Prophet did not use to go to bed without taking his miswak with him and when he got up in the morning, the first thing he used to do was cleaning his teeth. (Abu Dawud, Tahara, 30; Ahmad bin Hanbal, I, 373; Darimi, Salat, 165). Some Companions told they could not count how many times he used to clean his teeth with miswak in one day (Ahmad bin Hanbal, III, 445, 446).

On the other hand, it is told that the Prophet asked some Companions who entered into his presence with yellow-colored teeth. “It is amazing, how you can walk around with yellow colored teeth. Clean your teeth by miswak.” (Ahmad bin Hanbal, I, 214).

All those hadiths and practices of the Companions demonstrate that cleaning the teeth is an important way of getting cleaned which should be heeded not only during wudu, salat or reciting the Noble Qur’an but also in terms of health and while entering the society. Considering miswak’s that general cleansing aspect, the Islam scholars attracted attention that in five situations, cleaning of the teeth is mustahab (recommended). Those five situations are as follows: a) When the teeth become yellow, b) When the smell of the mouth changes, c) When someone wakes up, d) When someone stands up for salat, e) While doing the wudu. The cleaning of teeth before reading the Noble Qur’an and entering the presence of the society were added to them. (Ibn Abidin, Rad al- Mukhtar, Istanbul, 1984, I, 116; al- Fatawa al- Hindiyya, Beirut 1400/1980, I, 7).

It was determined that the origin of miswak, the arak tree, contained some florin materials useful for the teeth health, gave nice scents to the mouth and had some benefits for the stomach. On the other hand, if there is no miswak, teeth should be cleaned by a toothbrush and by some toothpaste or soap prepared in conformity with Islamic measures, and if those do not exist, either, teeth should be kneaded by fingers and cleaned by water. Cleaning our bodies and mouths through wudu before performing salat and reciting Qur’an, and being careful about cleanness, which is deemed as a sign of faith, when entering into the society attract Almighty Allah’s love as stated in the hadith “Certainly, Allah is clean and He likes cleanness.” (Tirrmidhi, Adab, 41) Besides, Muslims take necessary measures for their health in terms of preventive medicine that way.

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