If you asked the average parent to name the roster of a prenatal healthcare team, they are bound to mention a few key players: the family doctor, obstetrician/gynecologist, sonographer, and perhaps the midwife.
What about the dental hygienist?
Parents and healthcare providers often overlook the importance of oral health during pregnancy. However, multiple studies have indicated a link between poor oral health and adverse outcomes in pregnancy.
We’ve provided an overview of these four common dental problems during pregnancy, along with how dentists and dental hygienists can play a greater role in providing care to pregnant patients.
1. Pregnancy Gingivitis
During pregnancy, the body’s response to gingivitis-causing bacteria in the periodontal tissue changes. Some studies speculate the change is triggered by hormonal fluctuations, such as increased salivary estrogen levels during the second and third trimesters.
As a result, patients who had periodontitis before pregnancy may find that inflammation increases throughout the pregnancy. Those with no prior history of gum disease may develop periodontitis or notice increased bleeding and gingival crevicular fluid flow.
2. Dental Caries in Pregnancy
The risk of developing dental caries or cavities often increases during pregnancy. Patients may be affected by one or more contributing factors:
Decrease in salivary pH due to changes in diet;
Increase in acidity in the mouth due to vomiting;
Dry mouth; or
Poor oral hygiene care due to nausea and vomiting.
3. Oral Pyogenic Granuloma
Pyogenic granuloma appears as a small tissue overgrowth on the gums that can be smooth or lobulated and red or pink. These lesions are sometimes called ‘pregnancy tumours’ because they are more common in pregnant patients; however, pyogenic granuloma is not cancerous and often disappears without treatment.
Though not harmful, a pyogenic granuloma can be painful and unsightly.
4. Dental Erosion During Pregnancy
Patients who experience morning sickness or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in pregnancy may develop greater erosion of dental enamel. Although there is no way to reverse dental erosion that has already occurred, dental professionals can assist in preventing and reducing its effects.
Assisting Patients with Common Dental Problems During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be a critical time for a patient’s oral health. Not only does it increase the risk of these common dental problems, but poor oral health care is linked to outcomes like preterm birth, low birth weight, and preeclampsia.
There are many ways in which dental hygienists can help contribute to positive outcomes through good oral health care at all stages of pregnancy:
Encourage patients to have regular dental checkups during pregnancy, even if they are accustomed to seeing the dentist only once or twice a year. Emphasize the added importance of oral health care during this time in their lives.
Be non-judgemental about new concerns the patient may have about dental treatment during their pregnancy. Many people have heightened concerns about medications, fluoride treatment, and dental x-rays during this time; answer their questions with patience.
Reinforce the benefits of good oral hygiene care: twice-daily brushing for two minutes at a time, once-daily flossing, and using toothpaste with fluoride.
Ask about any new medications or supplements the patient may be taking during pregnancy.
Celebrating Hygiene Month
We all have dental hygienists to thank for being a part of our healthcare team throughout different stages of our lives, including the journey towards parenthood. This is the second in a series of articles we’ve published on this important role during Hygiene Month: a month to recognize hygienists and emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.
Sable Industries is proud to produce quality dental tools used by registered dental hygienists and dentists across North America. Contact us today to learn how we can assist your dental practice.
Caries. Gingivitis. Ulcerations. Bruxism. These are among the common ailments dental hygienists watch for in every routine dental examination. But there are some areas of inspection many hygienists overlook: namely, the oral structures of the head and neck.
Dental professionals, including hygienists, omit conducting an extraoral head and neck examination on patients on a routine basis. However, head and neck examinations can save lives, as they are key to identifying signs of oral cancer.
Importance of Extraoral Head and Neck Examinations
When oral cancer is detected and treated in its early stages, the 5-year survival rate is as high as 90%. However, because it often develops without pain or symptoms, patients rarely notice the disease until it has progressed into Stage 2 or beyond.
For this reason, dental hygienists and other professionals can greatly improve patient outcomes, or even save lives, by incorporating head and neck examinations as part of routine dental examinations.
Dental professionals conduct extraoral head and neck examinations by palpating important structures of the patient’s head and neck to assess and identify abnormal conditions. A thorough examination involves palpation of the jaw joints, parotid salivary glands, thyroid gland, masseter muscles, and various lymph nodes (submental, submandibular, cervical, supraclavicular, occipital, postauricular, and preauricular lymph nodes).
It is not necessary to perform these checks in any exact sequence, but the clinician should choose a sequence and apply it consistently to maintain awareness of abnormal versus normal conditions.
A well-practised clinician can complete this examination within four to five minutes.
How Dental Hygienists Can Perform Head and Neck Examinations to Improve Patient Outcomes
Unfortunately, many dental hygienists do not conduct thorough head and neck examinations on patients.
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) identifies various barriers that stand in the way: lack of time, insufficient training or knowledge, concern about client compliance, and lack of guidelines and tools.
But the capacity of these exams to improve outcomes for patients is too great to ignore. Dental professionals can potentially detect up to 84% of new oral cancer cases in the critical early stages. And, as demonstrated by an anecdote told by TGNA Clinical Coach and guest columnist Karina Bapoo-Mohamed, these 5-minute examinations can save lives.
Bapoo-Mohamed advised her patient to see a doctor ‘sooner than later’ after discovering an abnormality. Within days, the patient was referred for treatment for stage 1 oral cancer.
“Everyone that asks how/why I had it checked,” writes the patient, “and all I say is thanks to my Dental Hygienist.”
The CDHA sets out the following steps dental hygienists can take to improve their practice when it comes to extraoral head and neck examinations:
Know the facts on oral cancer. Dental hygienists should be confident in their knowledge and ability to locate, review, and update baseline data.
Know the early signs to look for. Perform extraoral head and neck examinations in addition to other routine dental exams. Use this fact sheet from Canadian Dental Association as a starting point for educating yourself on the signs of oral cancer.
Effectively communicate findings to patients. Ensure that patients understand the urgency of identifying and treating a potential case of oral cancer in the early stages.
Refer patients appropriately. Dentists and dental hygienists should establish a process for referring patients who could have oral cancer to a doctor who can conduct a biopsy.
Medicine has long recognized the connection between a patient’s oral health and general health. While research on the precise mechanisms of this oral-system link is ongoing, we know that inflammation by oral bacterial contributes to inflammation in other parts of the body. In a recent piece for Hygienetown, RDH Shirley Gutkowski discusses an aspect of the oral-systemic link that is proving to be more significant than previously thought: airway disorders.
Complications of the airway, particularly mouth breathing and sleep apnea, are growing concerns among dental professionals. Below, we’ll examine how dentists and dental hygienists can use airway support in dentistry to help patients improve their oral and overall health.
How Airway Disorders Affect the Oral-Systemic Link
In her article, Gutkowski contextualizes the issues through the work of pediatric dentist Dr. Kevin Boyd. Dr. Boyd is a leading scholar in Darwinian Dentistry, a medical theory exploring the link between modern systemic diseases and human evolutionary changes.
Darwinian Dentistry hypothesizes that the rapid industrialization of food has spurred evolutionary changes that leave us susceptible to airway disorders. Specifically, humans have smaller midfaces and smaller sinus cavities than our ancestors, contributing to mouth breathing while awake and apnea during sleep.
The same is true about sleep apnea. Gutkowski points out the conditions associated with inflammation are nearly identical to those linked with sleep apnea, and many studies show an increase in inflammation in people who snore. In one study, seniors with abnormal pulmonary function had significantly higher incidences of gingivitis.
Airway Support in Dentistry
An increasing number of dental professionals are focusing on the airway, some even opening “sleep practices” that specialize in these disorders. Many of these dentists can provide patients with dental appliances designed to support the jaw during sleep, providing airway support to alleviate apnea symptoms.
The practice of Orofacial myofunctional therapy (OMT) is also gaining acceptance as an alternative method of treating airway disorders. OMT involves movements that strengthen the muscles involved in the airway complex. The results are impressive: OMT has been demonstrated to reduce apnea by 62% in children and 50% in adults.
There are several ways dental hygienists can play a role in airway support. It is likely that demand for these skills will increase as recognition of airway disorders in the oral-systemic link continues to grow among dental professionals.
Become an expert. Registered dental hygienists can apply for certification as an Orofacial Myologist following completion of an IAOM-approved 28-hour course.
Be breath-aware. Along with looking for signs of periodontal inflammation, hygienists can observe a patient’s breathing for potential issues. A patient who cannot breathe through the nose for 20 or more respiration cycles should receive a referral to an orofacial myology specialist.
Practice preventative treatments. Since OMT takes time, hygienists can provide patients with fluoride varnishes in the meantime, which can help to prevent oral health issues associated with apnea and mouth breathing issues.
Migraine symptoms have many potential triggers: bright light, changes in air pressure, allergies, high humidity, stress, and more. Can dental problems trigger migraines as well?
According to the American Migraine Association, migraines affect over a billion people worldwide. Over 36 million people experience migraines in the United States alone.
What many people do not realize is that their migraine symptoms could be relieved by treating common dental problems.
An article in Dentistry Today explores the link between migraines and dental issues. Some of the dental problems that can trigger migraines include:
Bruxism (tooth grinding)
Caries (tooth decay)
Periodontitis (gum disease)
How Bad Bite Causes Migraines
Loose, missing, or misaligned teeth contribute to a bad bite. Bad bite strains the jaw muscles by forcing them to work harder to chew, swallow, and even keep the mouth shut. Over time, bad bite contributes to persistent muscle inflammation that can trigger painful migraines or headaches.
Pain that begins in the temporomandibular joints, which connect the sides of the jaw to the skull, can also lead to migraines and headaches.
Migraines often develop on one side of the head, beginning around the temple and spreading to the back of the head. Dentists observe that patients who complain of having frequent “one-sided” headaches are more likely to have dental problems relating to a bad bite.
Tooth Grinding and Migraines
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is another common dental problem that can trigger migraines. Many people who experience tooth grinding do so at night, so they do not realize they have a dental problem, but do report persistent headaches or migraines.
Other signs of tooth grinding include:
Clicking sound when opening the mouth
Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
Clenching or gnashing teeth causes inflammation in the gums and jaw muscles. As with bad bite, the inflammation caused by clenching or gnashing is a potential migraine trigger. These migraines often feel like a dull, constant headache originating around the temples behind the eyes.
Throbbing toothaches caused by tooth decay can also trigger headaches or migraine episodes.
Are Dental Problems Causing My Migraines?
There is a strong connection between headaches, migraines and untreated dental problems. Fortunately, there are usually ways to treat the underlying issue and diminish the migraine symptoms.
Dentists can correct many of the dental problems that trigger migraines through simple dental procedures, orthodontic treatment, or a mouthguard. In addition to relief from migraine pain, patients will experience the benefits of better oral health.
While there is no guarantee that treating the problem will end the migraines, dentists can help determine whether the symptoms and dental problems are linked. It is always worth asking.
Patients who experience symptoms of bad bite, tooth grinding, tooth decay, or gum disease should see a dentist regularly and ask about headaches and migraines.
Most of us chew gum, and we chew it for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a piece before a first date, or after a particularly strong cup of coffee, many of us use the chewy stuff to keep our mouths smelling clean and fresh as we go about our day.
We see gum promoted in advertisements as something you can use not only to keep your breath smelling fresh; but to whiten and clean your teeth, improving your oral health.
Exaggerated marketing, or bona-fide fact? The answer lies in the ingredients of the gum you choose to chew.
The Potential Benefits
It comes as no surprise that if you’re chewing gum with a lot of sugar in it, it’s going to be bad for your teeth. Sugar promotes the growth of plaque bacteria, which in turn promotes the development of cavities, the decay of enamel, and other issues.
It’s because of this that many companies, such as Wrigley’s, have begun to use both aspartame and a substance known as Xylitol as a substitute for sugar in their products.
A naturally occurring compound that has been shown to prevent tooth decay, the National Centre for Biotechnology Information writes that Xylitol, “reduces the levels of mutans streptococci … in plaque and saliva by disrupting their energy production processes, leading to futile energy cycle and cell death … Consumption of xylitol chewing gum for >3 weeks leads to both long-term and short-term reduction in salivary and plaque S. mutans levels.”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Less bacteria on your teeth means less enamel-eating acid created, which means a healthier mouth. Brands like Confadent advertise and discuss their use of Xylitol as a safe alternative to aspartame, and a plaque reducer.
According to Delta Dental of California, “With xylitol use over a period of time, the types of bacteria in the mouth change and fewer decay-causing bacteria survive on tooth surfaces.”
This sounds like a big-time benefit for your pearly whites, but how do the results compare to projection? Some research shows that the evidence regarding the long term benefits of Xylitol as a dental hygiene product is still unclear.
According to a review published by the American Dental Association in 2015, while there is some evidence that Xylitol may reduce tooth decay over a period of years, the evidence is low quality.
Research published by the Cochrane Library website suggests that there just isn’t enough high quality evidence to confirm that Xylitol prevents tooth decay.
Philip Riley, M.P.H., of the School of Dentistry at the University of Manchester in the UK, is quoted as writing, “More well-conducted, randomized placebo-controlled trials that are large enough (in terms of number of randomized participants) to show a difference, if one exists, are needed.”
The Cochrane Library review stresses in its conclusions, “We found some low quality evidence to suggest that fluoride toothpaste containing xylitol may be more effective than fluoride-only toothpaste … The effect estimate should be interpreted with caution due to high risk of bias and the fact that it results from two studies that were carried out by the same authors in the same population.”
So, What to Do?
In the end, the conclusions are yours to draw based on the evidence given, but it’s safe to say that chewing gum with Xylitol is better for your teeth than its sugary counterparts. While there needs to be some more research done to better reinforce this conclusion, Xylitol has indeed been shown to reduce cavity causing bacteria in the mouth.
Still, if you want to keep your teeth healthy, at the end of the day no gum is a substitute for regular brushing and flossing. For more information on Xylitol, its benefits and drawbacks, you can check out this article from Access Dental, or this one from Delta Dental.
Almost everyone concerned about the health of their teeth brushes regularly, but they may not know exactly why toothpaste performs the cleansing magic it does. They may not even know they also receive fluoride every day in their community’s drinking water.
There are various cleaning components in toothpaste and one of the primary ones is fluoride. The discovery of fluoride's cleaning abilities was a boon in preserving dental health. Toothpaste and tap water then became convenient fluoride delivery systems to aid in the fight against tooth decay.
A Natural Cavity Fighter
The discovery of fluoride’s ability to keep our teeth healthy dates back to the early 20th century. A pair of dentists in Colorado discovered that people in the area had teeth unusually resistant to decay. This was due to the high degree of natural fluoride deposits in the area, which had found their way into the local drinking water. Fluoride became a regular part of toothpaste beginning in 1914.
In the 1940s, a multi-year study began with the goal of determining whether adding fluoride to drinking water made a notable difference for dental health. The results showed a 60-65% decrease in tooth decay in children born after the experiment began. As a result, a number of states in America began water fluoridation programs to improve their citizens’ oral health.
How Flouride Works
The enamel of your teeth is the natural coating that helps to protect them. When children’s teeth are first forming, fluoride combines with the enamel to help stave off decay during a time of life when teeth are particularly vulnerable to cavities. Fluoride remains valuable throughout the life of your teeth by helping protect them against the ravages of sugar and plaque.
Rare Health Risks
As mentioned, almost everyone’s teeth come into regular contact with fluoride through exposure to drinking water and toothpaste. There are additional fluoride supplements in the form of drops or tablets, and it is also an ingredient in mouthwash. The degree of fluoride in the latter is quite high, so do not swallow it.
High doses of fluoride in water can be bad for you, but this would require ingesting a volume of water with fluoride going well beyond what the normal person drinks.
Excessive fluoride can cause conditions known as dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. You can only come down with dental fluorosis as a child, as ingesting too much fluoride at a young age can lead to white spots appearing on your permanent teeth. Fortunately, degrees of this condition ranking above very mild are almost non-existent.
You can also acquire skeletal fluorosis by taking in too much fluoride. However, you would have to have a very high amount on a daily basis for a very long period. As with dental fluorosis, the odds of contracting this problem are extremely rare.
Government oversight helps to ensure the level of fluoride in drinking water does not exceed safe rates. In Ontario, municipalities follow the guidelines laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act managed by the Ministry of the Environment.
You know the basics of oral health care: brush twice a day, floss your teeth, avoid sugary snacks, and visit your dentist at least twice a year. Here are 10 tips for oral health care you may not know (and a good refresher if you do!)
1) Brush Smarter
Which is better: a humble manual toothbrush or a fancy electric one? They can be equally effective, but what really matters is your brushing technique.
Don’t just brush up and down or back and forth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use a gentle, circular motion to clean each surface of the teeth, including the chewing side and the side facing your tongue, for at least two minutes. Brushing harder or faster doesn’t do you any good. In fact, it can actually lead to tooth and gum damage!
2) Don't Forget to Floss
People often think flossing is secondary to brushing, but they are both essential to good oral health. If you aren’t flossing, you’re leaving a third of the surface of the teeth unclean.
The ideal flossing technique is a forward or backward motion, with the floss forming a curved ‘C’ shape around the tooth. Use a fresh part of the floss for each tooth so you aren’t re-inserting the bacteria you just removed.
3) Pay Attention to Sensitive Teeth
Sensitivity to heat and cold is a common dental complaint, and it’s often a sign of an underlying issue like tooth decay, gum disease, or tooth grinding. It’s important to find and treat the source of tooth sensitivity, even if the pain is mild. See your dentist at the first signs of sensitive teeth.
4) Eat Well and Brush Often
You’ve heard it since you were a kid: sugar causes cavities. True, a diet high in sugar can lead to cavities, but the real cause is plaque, produced by bacteria in your mouth that eats the carbohydrates left on teeth after a meal.
While sugar is the biggest cavity culprit, even healthy food leads to some plaque formation. This is why you should brush after every meal, not just after dessert, and avoid eating or drinking anything, aside from water, after you have brushed your teeth at night.
5) Watch Your Fillings
Do you have fillings? If so, you can usually expect them to last for eight to 10 years. However, some fillings break down earlier than that. When a filling starts to chip and break apart, food and bacteria can get caught underneath, causing decay deep in the tooth. Be sure to make a dental appointment if your tooth filling is not holding up.
6) Wear a Mouth Guard
Mouth guards are standard equipment for contact sports like hockey and football. However, less confrontational sports—such as baseball, skiing, and skateboarding—can also pose a risk of injury to your teeth. Even minor dental injuries can lead to long-term consequences, so a mouth guard is a good investment for anyone who participates in a sport on a regular basis.
7) Read the Ingredients on Toothpaste
What’s in your toothpaste? Different kinds of toothpaste—those for desensitizing, tartar control, whitening, et cetera—consist of different active ingredients. Understanding how these ingredients work will help you choose the right toothpaste for you. You should always choose a toothpaste containing fluoride, even if your tap water is already fluoridated.
8) Beat Bad Breath
There are many possible causes of bad breath, but poor oral hygiene is a common source. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, odor-causing bacteria can accumulate between teeth and in the back of your throat. However, bad breath can also be a sign of a medical problem, so have a dentist rule out any oral hygiene issues first.
9) Use Mouthwash as Directed
Mouthwash cannot replace proper brushing and flossing, but it can help boost your oral hygiene and control issues like bad breath, plaque, and oral sores. Be sure to read the instructions on the bottle before using it. Depending on the ingredients, the manufacturer may recommend using it either before or after brushing or flossing for the best results.
10) Make Regular Dental Appointments
Do not wait until you have a problem to see your dentist! Even if your teeth and gums seem fine, the dentist might notice things you can’t feel or see. Scheduling regular dental exams will help you detect and treat cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis, and other oral health issues before they become painful and/or expensive to fix.
Everyone knows dental hygienists clean teeth. But did you know they also examine patients for signs of disease, provide preventative treatment, and educate people on good oral health? Here’s a sneak peek at some of the amazing things you’ll learn in dental school.
Dental hygienists do more than just clean teeth. They examine teeth and gums, chart cavities, place brackets and bands, install arch wires, and take a hands-on role in all kinds of dental procedures. These practical skills are the core of any dental hygienist program.
Once you have learned the fundamentals, you’ll begin to apply what you have learned in a mock clinical setting until you’re ready to assist with real patients.
Tools of the Trade
What's the difference between electric and air-driven handpieces? You’ll know soon. Dental hygienists use a wide range of dental equipment and tools, from simple picks and dental mirrors to high-tech equipment like X-ray machines.
Dental school will teach you to pick the best dental tools for the job.
Treating Different Patients
No two patients are exactly alike. Different people have different needs when it comes to dental care. In dental school, you’ll learn to provide top-notch treatment to people of all ages and backgrounds. Some schools offer courses focusing on the unique needs of people who are elderly, disabled, or have other barriers to receiving dental treatment.
Dental hygienists not only learn the ins and outs of oral anatomy, they also acquire in-depth knowledge of the human body in general. They study various aspects of human biology, right down to the microscopic make-up of tissues and the mechanisms of disease.
Community Health and Advocacy
As members of the dental profession, dental hygienists have a platform to advocate on dental health issues in the community. Many dental schools have a course on public health and advocacy, where you learn how to improve access to dental care and spread the word using marketing and mass media.
Diet plays a huge role in oral health. To help your patients maintain healthy teeth and gums, you must know the science of nutrition. Dental hygienists learn the function of basic nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in the body, along with the impact of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies on oral health. By the time you’re finished dental school, you’ll know more about healthy eating than a dedicated health nut!
Do you have good people skills? If so, you’ll have a leg-up in the dental profession. If not, dental school will help you catch up! Dental hygienists often spend more time speaking with patients than dentists do, and they teach patients to maintain and develop good dental habits. With good communication skills, you can help make the dental office experience more comfortable and beneficial to patients.
Dental school is no walk in the park. Mastering the practical skills takes a great deal of physical strength, endurance, and manual dexterity. Your science courses will demand hours of reading and dedicated studying, testing your ability to analyze problems and think critically. However, at the end of this long road lies a career full of potential! Going through the rigors of dental school will help you discover whether the dental profession is right for you, and if so, what role you want to play within it.
It's human nature to concentrate on the main details of a situation. For example, if you were going in for an open-heart procedure, you would likely concern yourself with the surgeon’s track record. This particular specialist is the main part of the operation, but they receive assistance from other highly qualified professionals.
If you a love a movie, you make a point of remembering the director’s name, but not necessarily the editor or key grip, both of whom are likely also exceptional at their jobs. Let’s face it, there are very few specialists who work entirely alone, but it is often customary for the world to have only one person take a bow.
Veteran dental hygienist Candice Feagle attended a function awhile back and when mentioning what she did for a living, the person she spoke to replied, “Oh, you’re just a hygienist.” Most of us take pride in what we do and it was understandable that Candice had a negative reaction, though she kept it to herself. It wasn’t the first time this had happened to her or other people in this profession.
However, after mulling it over the next day, she decided to write about the incident for Dentistry IQ.
Not "Just" Collecting a Paycheck
The vast majority of dental hygienists worked hard to earn their certification, and continue to enhance their knowledge by taking advantage of related learning opportunities.
"Oh, you're just a hygienist"
Like any profession, some hygienists are content with their current routine, but there is room to grow in this role. Candace felt at several points that she was indeed “just” a hygienist, which prompted her to expand her career possibilities. Most recently, Candace chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in allied dental health, allowing her to experience the nonclinical side of the profession, an aspect many patients do not realize exists.
Not "Just" Cleaning Teeth
The average client probably doesn’t realize how much their hygienist does for them. Is it the dentist who reviews their medical history with them and goes out of their way to help ease their anxiety? Does the dentist perform oral cancer screenings, sterilize the equipment, conduct fluoride treatments, take blood pressure, or do periodontal charting?
They can, but in the vast majority of cases, the hygienist performs these as well as other key aspects of a dental appointment.
As Candace also points out in the article, motivated hygienists can go on to become public health professionals, researchers, administrators, entrepreneurs…you name it!
Not every job will make you a millionaire or put your name up in lights. Sometimes the greatest satisfaction comes from knowing you are making an important contribution to a person’s health and well-being.
“Having been in the dental profession for the last 26 years, I can honestly say I love my profession...I know the varied abilities and diverse opportunities being a hygienist represents.”
The pride Candice expresses in that statement makes it clear she knows the value of what she does. And that’s just fine with her.
An inviting smile can open doors and our oral health is also important to our overall well-being. Most of us brush and floss regularly to ensure our teeth remain clean and free of cavities, though some people go the extra step of having their teeth whitened.
Such measures can be quite expensive and inconvenient, so wouldn’t it be wonderful to have another more cost-effective way of ensuring your dental health you could do at home? Not to mention one that may also result in fresher breath?
Oil pulling might be the way to accomplish this. While there is no definitive scientific evidence to say this method works, many people swear by it. Although oil pulling is a hot topic on the internet, it is actually a case of renewed interest in a cleaning method dating back several centuries.
How Does it Work?
Oil pulling is the practice of swishing raw coconut oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes each day. If you are interested in trying this, don’t worry—you won’t have to be splitting or milking coconuts. You can find bottled coconut oil in your grocery store. You can also use sesame or sunflower oil, though most people find the taste of coconut oil preferable.
Coconut oil is solid in form, but quickly liquefies as it mixes with your saliva. Take a generous tablespoon of the oil, place it in your mouth, and swish. You don’t need to swish as vigorously as you would with mouthwash as your jaw would become quite tired.
Do the oil pull first thing in the morning before you eat to get rid of the bacteria build-up in your mouth that occurred overnight. Once the time has elapsed, spit out the oil, and gargle for one minute with a mixture of lukewarm salt water. Then brush your teeth using a brush separate from one used normally. After brushing, rinse the brush thoroughly in warm water.
It is important to avoid swallowing. While the coconut oil will not harm you, swallowing means you will ingest all of the oral bacteria you want to purge from your body.
Detoxing Your Mouth
Those who swear by oil pulling say it is a great way to detox your mouth. Tooth decay results from a build-up of harmful bacteria in the mouth. These germs can lead to plaque, gingivitis, cavities, and even gum disease. Brushing your teeth regularly helps to eliminate such germs, but could oil pulling provide extra help for you in this area? Possibly, but there is no concrete proof.
Tooth Whitening and No More Bad Breath?
We all want whiter teeth. Could oil pulling provide a cheaper and easier way to attain this without having to go to the dentist or deal with those annoying whitening strips? Oil pulling enthusiasts enthusiastically claim yes, your teeth will look cleaner.
They also claim oil pulling will make your breath fresher, though this is not something that would last throughout the day.
Should you try oil pulling? Doing so will not cure cavities or correct any major dental issues, and it is no replacement for daily brushing and flossing. There is no scientific basis for the claims made on behalf of oil pulling and some dental professionals feel you can get comparable results using mouthwash and possibly even just water.
However, oil pulling certainly cannot harm you in any way and will not worsen your oral health.