Miswak (chewing Stick): A Cultural And Scientific Heritage
College of Dentistry, King Saud University P.O. Box 60169, Riyadh 11545, K.S.A.
Saudi Dental Journal 1999/volume 11 NOV 2: 80-88
Miswak (chewing stick) was used by the Babylonians some 7000 years ago; it was later used throughout the Greek and Roman empires, and has also been used by ancient Egyptians and Muslims. It is used in different parts of Africa, Asia-especially the Middle East- and South America. Chewing sticks are used for oral hygiene, religious and social purposes. This article presents some of the different types of chewing sticks used around the world with special emphasis on the most commonly used plant in the Middle East, the Arak (Salvadorapersica). The Pharmacological and therapeutic aspects of Miswak and its role in plaque control, gingival recession, tooth wear, bleeding gums and periodontal health is discussed with reference to current literature. Finally, this review concludes with how to select and use the Miswak. Introduction
Dental caries and periodontal diseases are the two main afflictions to mankind. Bacterial plaque is solely responsible for the initiation and progression of periodontal diseases. The methods available for the maintenance of oral health are mainly mechanical and chemical. Toothbrushes and dentifrices are widely used for cleaning teeth. The traditional toothbrush or chewing stick is deeply rooted in Islamic culture. This article gives a brief cultural and historical background of the subject and review current literature on Miswak. Definitions
Pencil-sized sticks of various plants are fashioned from certain plant - parts and are chewed on one end until they become frayed into a brush. The brush-end is used to clean the teeth in a manner similar to the use of a toothbrush. When used in this manner, they are commonly referred to as chewing sticks or Miswak. The conventional meaning of Miswak is 'stick used on teeth and gums to clean them.' Its various namesare Miswak and Siwak as used in the Middle East, Mswaki in Tanzania, Mefaka in Ethiopia and Datunin India and Pakistan.1 Although Siwak or Miswak is used to describe Arak (Salvadora persica), thestick which the Prophet Muhammad - Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon Him (PBUH) - used toclean his mouth with, miswak is a more general term which includes all types of sticks used as toothcleaning aids.
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