Dental Hygiene: The Chewing Stick and Chewing Sponge
The first thing we think about when we mention dental hygiene is probably a toothbrush, but what if there is another way some Africans prefer compared to the toothbrush? There are a few ways to keep good oral health. Below we discuss the Chewing stick and the Chewing Sponge.
This is basically a piece of wood or tree bark that is sold normally pre-cut and rectangular shaped into about 2 inches long and half an inch wide. This wood is taken from some specific trees that are supposed to have a good medicinal effect on your teeth and gums.
Another popular tree people use locally is also the Neem tree. Also known as Azadirachta indica is a tree from the mahogany family and is native to the Indian Subcontinent and most countries in Africa, its seeds are used to make neem oil. You probably heard of this, it got really popular when the coronavirus was at its highest.
This tree is quite bitter but has a lot of medicinal uses. It is used for leprosy, eye disorders, skin ulcers, cardiovascular disease, fever, diabetes, gingivitis, and a few others. It could also be used for Birth Control and Abortions.
Most just make it into juices and drink it.. It is really bitter. very very bitter. prepare yourself if you ever try this.
So how do you use this?
You take a piece or one stick and then chew its end to start your day. That’s basically it, and yeah it does work. Most chewing sticks have frayed ends to help you chew it, others don’t. it depends on personal preference.
One benefit of using this is that it keeps your mouth quite fresh for a long time. and has been recommended by the WHO for use in dental or Oral hygiene
Chewing sponge/Sawie/ Taakotsa
Not to get confused with the bathing sponge. This is yellow and softer compared to the bathing sponge or washing sponge which is a bit red in nature.
How it is used is generally people just tear a piece off and chew it while they go about their early morning tasks. It’s supposed to clean every inch of your mouth, make your mouth fresh and strengthen your gums. There are different types of hardness you can get this in. Choose the one you can chew the easiest.
These are quite unusual ways to brush your teeth however they do work quite effectively. Also its more economical compared to using a toothbrush and toothpaste. Especially for people in poor communities. These aren’t really expensive for the locals and a bundle of chewing sponge could last a month depending on how many people use it per day.
Growing up it was a really common practice to wake up and have it shoved into your mouth. This was basically the norm
As time progressed the newer generation drifted towards the toothbrush more and more. However the culture still lives on, and the older generation still teaches the younger generation. What could be cooler than chewing a stick or chewing a sponge to clean your teeth every morning? A bit weird but cool nonetheless.
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