Hatha Yoga: Danta Dhauti

Danta dhauti, one of the shatkarmas, 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 neti, 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 of the world around us. Remember, our sensory perception is dependent on the state 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.


The important qualities of a dentifrice are that it is sufficiently abrasive to remove ingrained stains on the teeth, germicidal to destroy bacteria, as well as being able to wash the teeth and gums.

The ancient yogis always made their own tooth powder out of catechu, alum, myrobalan and the ash of burnt coconut shells in the proportion 1:6:1:2. However, these substances are not readily available and so most of us will have to stick with the toothpastes of today, the best of which are generally available at ayurvedic pharmacies, health and macrobiotic food stores. Additionally, some excellent dentifrices are wood ash or lemon juice which can be applied on a brush, or the rind of a lemon which can be rubbed up and down on the teeth and gums. This is a particularly good method of removing tarnish from the teeth.

The importance of cleaning the teeth and gums

The importance of maintaining healthy gums and teeth is not appreciated by many people.

The mouth is the gateway to the body and a favourite breeding ground for bacteria. Some of these germs proceed further into the body while many remain in food particles trapped in the teeth cavities. The vulnerable time for tooth decay and the build-up of bacteria in the teeth and gums is in the first half an hour or so after meals. It is for this reason that ideally the teeth and gums should be cleaned immediately after each meal.

Diet also has a large part to play in the health of the teeth and gums. This is illustrated by the fact that there are many cases of primitive tribes who have perfect sets of teeth, yet have never seen a toothbrush in their life. Diets which are very rich in sugar seem to have a noticeable deleterious influence on teeth and gums, because sugary foods are very quickly converted into acids, which in turn attack the enamel or protective lining of the teeth.

Regular cleaning of the teeth and gums, together with a reduction in the intake of sugary food and the adoption of a sensible vitamin-rich diet is therefore the only sure way to prevent dental decay and pyorrhoea, as well as the accompanying toothache and bad breath originating from the mouth. Remember also that many authorities say that bad teeth and gums and infections of this area have a harmful influence on the general health of the whole body.


The Sanskrit word jihva means ‘tongue’ and moola means ‘root’. This practice is therefore concerned with cleaning the tongue and its root.

The tongue is a vital organ of the body, yet very few people ever seriously think about cleaning it. All of us have at some time or another noticed a thick layer of yellow slime on the upper surface of the tongue, especially when we feel a little ‘under the weather’. This coating on the tongue actually consists of impurities that have been removed from the body. It indicates that there is some inner disorder or accumulation of toxins that the body is desperately trying to expel.

Failure to remove the impurities on the tongue can aggravate ailments within the body, particularly digestive problems. Remember these impurities can act as breeding grounds for bacteria which in turn can contaminate food being eaten. So regular cleaning of the tongue is very important in maintaining a healthy body. The practice is veiy simple and takes no more than a minute or so.


Wash the hands thoroughly, making sure that the finger nails are perfectly clean. Join the index, middle and ring fingers of one hand so that the tips are in line with each other.

Carefully push them into the mouth and as far towards the back of the throat as is possible without retching.

Rub the root of the tongue slowly and thoroughly for a few minutes.

Simultaneously try to cough out any phlegm and other impurities that are in the throat. This should be sufficient to remove any impurities from the tongue.

Time and duration

This practice should be performed preferably before breakfast. This is important for one might otherwise tend to retch as the fingers are pushed into the back of the throat.

Try to practise at least once every day, if not as often as time available will permit. Two minutes rubbing the back of tongue and two minutes milking the upper and lower surfaces is sufficient.