Danta dhauti, one of the shatkarmas1, consists of a series of simple practices which clean various organs and regions of the head. These practices are danta moola dhauti (cleaning of the teeth and gums), jihva moola dhauti (cleaning of the tongue), kapal randhra dhauti washing the skull), karna dhauti (cleaning the ears) and chakshu dhauti (washing the eyes).
These practices, as well as jala neti1, are concerned either directly or indirectly with the main senses of the body - hearing, seeing, smelling and tasting. As such they are important in enabling us to gain the best possible perception ofthe world around us. Remember, our sensory perception is dependent on the -tate of the associated organs. Therefore the following practices, though perhaps seeming rather trivial and simple, are a valuable aid in being able to communicate with and relate to the outside world.
The ancient yogis realized the necessity of maintaining the sensory organs in the optimum condition. This is clearly stated in the traditional text on practical yoga, the Hatha Yoga Samhita: "The cleaning of the teeth, mouth, tongue, ears and the nasal cavities is the first duty of the yogic aspirant and should be performed every morning without fail."
The Sanskrit word danta means 'teeth', dhauti means 'wash' and moola means 'root'. Therefore this practice is concerned with cleaning the teeth and gums.
The usual utensil used today is the toothbrush. Yet many authorities have strongly condemned its use without regular sterilization. It is pointed out that toothbrush bristles become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria. During daily use these are transmitted into the mouth. Further, hard bristles tend to tear and damage the gums, especially when the cleaning action is very harsh.
In India today the traditional method of cleaning the teeth is by means of a twig from a neem tree. The twig is usually about fifteen centimetres long and half a centimetre thick and it has good alkaline and astringent properties. The end of the stick is chewed until it forms bristles. These are then used to brush the teeth and gums. Both chewing the end of the stick and using it as a brush makes the teeth and gums strong and clean. After use the stick is thrown away.
This method is probably impractical for most people. If this is the case, then use a soft bristled brush to clean the teeth and try to clean the brush as often as possible. The gums should be cleaned with the index finger making a hard, rubbing motion over both the inner and outer gums. You should try to clean your teeth at least twice every day, and even better after each meal.
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