In fact, as more re- search is carried out into its miraculous properties, oral health researchers are identifying many more benefits of using the Miswak and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. In this article, I aim to present some contemporary research into the benefits of Miswak and main- taining good oral health in general.
It has been shown that only a couple of minutes after tooth brushing, decay causing bacteria firmly adhere to the tooth surface. If these bacteria are al- lowed to remain for 3 hours or more,the initial tooth decay damage will begin and even more harmful bacteria will at- tach to the tooth surface. These bacteria then attack the tiny blood vessels on the gum and make them susceptible to bleeding. They can only be removed by effective brushing with abrasive fibres, such as Miswak or even a tooth- brush. However, unlike brushing with a standard toothbrush, the Miswak has been found to inhibit this initial bacte- rial growth and retard the build-up of plaque, helping to improve oral health and freshen breath; thus providing dual benefit by acting as an anti-microbial and retardant.
Studies on Miswak
In 1986, the World Health Organisa- tion (WHO) recommended the use of Miswak, concluding that Miswak is “as effective as tooth-brushing for reducing plaque and gingivitis (early gum dis- ease), and that the antimicrob-ial effect of S. persica is beneficial for prevention and treatment of periodontal disease.” (Swedish Dental Journal; 2004). Fur- ther, a Scientific study (2003) which compared the use of Miswak with or- dinary toothbrushes found results to be in clear favour of the users of Miswak, provided they had been given proper instruction in how to brush using it. It is here that we can glimpse the beauty of the Sunnah of our beloved prophet Muhammad g of using the Miswak at every opportunity. We also get a scope of the wisdom behind beautiful narra- tions extolling the Miswak’s virtues such
as: “Make a regular practice of Miswak for verily it is the purification for the mouth and a means of the pleasure of the Lord” (Bukhari).
It is quite unfortunate that we Muslims who should be leading by example, in fact have some of the worst oral hygiene indices in the country; a matter of great emba-rrassment and shame. The NHS has recently been working on a project to help the Asian community (with particular attention to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities) to improve oral health. How can we Muslims invite others to this beneficial Sunnah when we in fact neglect oral health?
There are serious implications of neglecting oral health. Leading researchers have identified 2 major lines of enquiry cur- rently being analysed. These include the harmful effects of neglecting oral health on heart disease. Harmful decay caus- ing bacteria also damage the heart and lead to general ill health. Research has also shown poor oral health leading to premature births and difficult pregnan- cies in women.
Did you know there are more bacteria in your mouth than the number of people in the world!!! Even more astounding is the fact that minerals in Miswak are effective against every single harmful one of these!!! In light of the above discussion I would like to highlight a few points. The first is that the research illustrates two themes: 1, the importance of oral health and 2, the clear physical benefits of using Miswak- also recog- nised by the medical world. As Muslims who claim to follow the teachings of the Qur’an and the way of Muhammad g, these two facts should already be well known to us. It is hoped that the few benefits outlined above will encourage more of us to utilise the Miswak, but I would like to make one further point. As Muslims we should see the physical benefits of Miswak as second- ary and should be prepared to use the Miswak out of the love of our prophet g. It should be enough for us to use the Miswak that the Messenger himself used it and instructed us to use it.
Our primary goal for using the Miswak should be to attain the pleasure of Allah c by following the teachings of His Messenger g.The physical benefits are an example of the abundant wisdom behind this practice which would be un- known to the common individual. What is more compelling about the Miswak is the spiritual benefit to be attained in the hereafter. The reward of salah offered after one has used a Miswak is 70 times superior to the salah offered without it. (Musnad Ahmad).
We must make a sincere effort to imple- ment this beautiful Sunnah into our lives and benefit not only from tremen- dous rewards but also excellent general health. The Miswak should become one of our necessities remaining with us wherever we go. It should be kept along- side a toothbrush in the bathroom so it can be used when brushing teeth, before going to bed etc. A small Miswak should also be kept in one’s pocket/bag so that it can be used when performing wudhu at university, work, and outdoors. A little effort with the right intention can reap huge rewards.