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Posted on: 07 Mar 2013 Tagged by:

A variety of oral hygiene measures have been performed since the dawn of time. This has been verified by various excavations done all over the world, in which toothpicks, chew sticks, tree twigs, linen strips, birds' feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were recovered. 

Those that originated from plants are tasty twigs and although primitive they represented a transitional step towards the modern toothbrush. It has been stated that about seventeen plants could be enumerated as natural sources for several of these oral hygiene devices. 

The most widely used tree twigs since early times is the "Siwaak" or "Miswaak". The stick is obtained from a plant called Salvadore Persica that grows around Mecca and the Middle East area in general. It is widely used among Muslims after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) realised its value as a device which should be used by Muslims to clean their teeth. In this respect our Prophet (pbuh) is considered the first dental educator in proper oral hygiene. 

Although there is no reference to the use of Siwaak in Al-Qur'an, yet several quotations could be read in the compendium of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as to the benefits of Siwaak in mouth cleanliness. One saying reads as follows: "If it were not too much a burden on the believers, I would prescribe that they use the sewaak before each prayer." 

Several anecdotes, incidents, poems and rules of ethics in using Siwaak were mentioned in various references talking on the subject of cleanliness of the mouth. 

Salvadora Persica is in fact a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, seldom more than one foot in diameter, bark scabrous and cracked, whitish with pendulous extremities. The root bark is light brown and the inner surfaces are white, odour like cress and taste is warm and pungent. 

Chemically the air dried stem bark of S. Persica is extracted with 80% alcohol and then extracted with ether and run through exhaustive chemical procedures. This showed that it is composed of: 1. Trim ethylamine 2. An alkaloid which may be salvadorine 3. Chlorides 4. High amounts of fluoride and silica 5. Sulphur 6. Vitamin C 7. Small amounts of Tannins, saponins, fiavenoids & sterols 

Purpose of the Present Investigation: 

Because of the great quality of oral cleanliness noticed in individuals who use Siwaak as the sole device to brush their teeth and because of the low incidence of dental decay of those individuals this work was undertaken. It is intended to study the following: 

1. The mechanical ability of Siwaak as a cleaning device to the mouth and its ability to rid the mouth of bacterial plaque (aggregates harmful to the gum).
2. If Siwaak is powdered and used with a toothbrush, could it act as an efficient mouth cleaner?
3. As compared to other strongly abrasive toothpowders, could Siwaak rank as highly efficient as to the used material? 


Oral hygiene and patient motivation towards a clean mouth owe their birth to the teachings of the Prophet Muhmmad (pbuh). Due to the repeated use of Siwaak during the day, the users showed an unusually high level of oral cleanliness. It is a well known fact that plaque formed immediately after meticulous toothbrushing. By the end of 24 hours the plaque is well on its way towards maturation and hence starts its deleterious effects on the gingiva. 

Proper oral hygiene should be maintained through intensive instructions by the periodontist as well as by a great expenditure of time and dexterity on part of the patient. This item is self corrected in Muslims because Siwaak users take Siwaak as a device that should be used as part of their religious ritual regimen. 

The results obtained in this investigation have proved that Siwaak and other tree twigs could act as an effective tool in removing soft oral deposits. It could be even used as an effective device in preventive dental programmes in mass populations. The indices used in this investigations were simple and adequate as they discriminated between experimental stages as well as between experimental groups. 

Using starch is not quite accurate but it was meant to evaluate the degree by which Siwaak and powdered Siwaak could rid teeth of deposits as compared to the best abrasive viz. commercial powder. 

It is noticed that the difference between first and fifth week of the mean score of plaque percentage for powdered Siwaak is the highest (-11.2%) of all readings. This indicates that powdered Siwaak is used without mechanically proper device i.e. toothbrush, will give a great deal of oral cleanliness. 

It has been reported that Salvadora Persica contains substances that possess antibacterial properties. Some other components are astringents, detergents and abrasives. Those properties encourage some toothpaste laboratories to incorporate powdered stems and/or root material of Salvadora persica in their products (Beckenham U.K. Sarakan Ltd.). 

Although the commercial powder gave a high degree of efficiency in plaque removal, yet its use over the experimental period gave a high score of gingivitis percentage within the group using the powder. It is time that plaque eradication is essential but this should not be on the expense of deleterious side effect on other tissues. 

It could be concluded that Siwaak and powdered Siwaak are excellent tools for oral cleanliness. Because of its availability in this part of the world, being inexpensive and readily adopted by Muslims as part of their religious regimen, it is highly recommended in implementing a preventive dental health program in the Islamic countries. 

Also recommendations should be directed to manufacturers of toothpastes to include the powdered form of Siwaak in a highly sophisticated toothpaste. 

Miswaak Quick View of Benefits (Advantages of the Miswaak): 

1. Miswaak strengthens the gums and prevents tooth decay.
2. Miswaak assists in eliminating toothaches and prevents further increase of decay which has already set in. 
3. Miswaak creates a fragrance in the mouth. 
4. Miswaak eliminates bad odors and improves the sense of taste. 
5. Miswaak sharpens the memory. 
6. Miswaak is a cure for headaches. 
7. Miswaak causes the teeth to glow. 
8. Miswaak assists in digestion. 
9. Miswaak clears the voice. 
10. The greatest benefit of using miswaak is gaining the pleasure of Allah. 

Times When the Usage of Miswaak Is Sunnah: 

1. For the recitation of the Qur'an and Hadith. 
2. At the time of Wudu' (Ablution). 
3. At the time of prayer (Salat). 
4. For the learning or teaching Islaam. 
5. For making Dhikrullah (Remebrance of Allah). 
6. When the mouth emits and odor. 
7. Before entering any good gathering. 
8. When experiencing pangs of hunger and thirst. 
9. After the signs of death are evident. 
10. After entering one's home. 
11. Before meals. 
12. On returning from a journey. 
13. Before sleeping. 
14. Upon awakening. 

How Long Should a Miswaak Be? 

A Miswaak should not be longer than a "span" i.e. the maximum distance between the tips of the thumb and little finger, and it should not be thicker than a finger's breadth. 

How should it be used? 

A Miswaak should be held in such a manner that the small finger and thumb is below the miswaak and the remaining fingers on its upper side. 

Types of Miswaaks: 

It is permissible to take for a Miswaak all types of tree twigs provided these are not harmful or poisonous. So, Miswaaks from the following trees are not permissible:
(1) Pomegranate 
(2) Bamboo 
(3) Raihaan 
(4) Chambelie 

The Prophet (pbuh) forbade the use of Raihaan as Miswaak because it causes the sickness, leprosy (Juzaam). 

The most recommended types of Miswaak are Peelo tree, Olive tree, Bitam and Walnut tree. In "Ta-heelul Manaa-fi'", it is mentioned that the miswaak of the Peelo tree is excellent for obtaining the glow or glitter of the teeth. 

In "Al-Mawaahib", it is stated that the Companions of Imam Shafi ® have recorded Concensus of Opinion among them on the fact that the use of the Peelo Miswaak is recommended (Mustahab i.e. of much reward if upheld, and in the event of not fulfilling it no punishment will be meted out). 

Etiquette of the Miswaak: 

(1)The intention of using the Miswaak should should be made prior to its use." 
(2) The Miswaak should be a straight twig, devoid of roughness. 
(3) The Miswaak should be clean. 
(4) The Miswaak should not be too hard nor too soft. 
(5) The Miswaak should not be used while one is lying down. 
(6) The new Miswaak should be approximately 8 inches (a hand-span) in length. 
(7) The Miswaak should be the thickness of the forefinger. 
(8) Before using the Miswaak, it should be washed. 
(9) After use it should be washed as well. 
(10) The Miswaak should not be sucked. 
(11) The Miswaak should be placed vertically when not in use. It should not be thrown onto the ground. 
(12) If the Miswaak is dry it should be moistened with water prior to use. 
(13) The Miswaak should not be used in the toilet. 
(14) The Miswaak should be used at least thrice (brush three times) for each section of the mouth, e.g. brush the upper layer of teeth thrice, then the lower layer thrice, etc. 
(15) The Miswaak should not be used at both ends. 
(16) The Miswaak should not be taken from an unknown tree as it may be poisonous. 

[From a research prepared by Dr. M. Ragaii El-Mostehy, Dr. A.A.Al-Jassem, Dr. I.A.Al-Yassin, Dr.A.R; El-Gindy and Dr. E. Shoukry - Kuwait] 

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