Monthly Archives: January 2017

Ask Us! Oil Pulling

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Question: I’ve heard a lot about “oil pulling,” a dental cleaning practice consisting of vigorously swishing sesame or coconut oil in the mouth.  It is supposed to be great for achieving and maintaining healthy gums.  What do you know about this practice and is it effective?

Answer: Oil pulling has certainly gained in popularity in the United States during recent years.  It has been used for many years as a traditional Indian folk remedy and is reputed to decrease the amount of plaque that attaches to the teeth and to promote healthy gums.  Numerous recent trials have been performed to test these effects and it seems as if there is compelling evidence backing the researchers’ claims.  In randomized controlled studies done in 2009 and 2011, participants were asked to “pull” or swish their mouths vigorously with either chlorhexadine (a strong antimicrobial mouthwash) or sesame oil for 10 minutes each morning.  In both studies, plaque scores, as well as the plaque’s bacterial count were significantly reduced, indicating that sesame oil pulling is a highly effective method for oral health promotion.  It is our opinion that oil pulling for 10 minutes per day is an acceptable practice for maintaining good oral health, but it is much more labor intensive than simply brushing and flossing, which can effectively be done in 3 minutes.

What oil pulling can do:

  • Reduce plaque build up by inhibiting the plaque’s ability to attach to the tooth surfaces.
  • Promote good gum health by reducing “bad” bacteria through saponification.

What oil pulling cannot do:

  • Remove hardened tarter build up on the teeth.
  • Arrest and reverse the decay process.  Once a cavity is past the initial stage, it cannot be reversed by oil pulling.
  • Strengthen dental enamel.

Does your office preform oral cancer screenings? I have recently been hearing that there is an increase in younger people getting oral cancer and was wondering why.

Answer: We do complementary oral cancer screenings in all adults, 18 or older, as a part of our cleaning/dental wellness appointment. As you mentioned in your question, there is a new cancer epidemic on the rise. It’s an aggressive throat and mouth cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Public health officials estimate that nearly 80 per cent of the adult population has been infected with HPV. Most people spontaneously clear the virus within 18 months of exposure; it’s not known why or how it stays around and develops into cancer in some.

HPV-positive oral cancers tend to develop on the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate or the back of the throat, an area collectively known as the oropharynx. This makes them harder to detect than cancers closer to the front of the mouth, which are often identified by dentists and dental hygienists. We check for this by asking you to stick your tongue out and carefully examining the sides and back of your tongue, the floor of the mouth and palate. It is done quickly, painlessly and best of all, it is free of charge.

In addition, when you come for your cleaning, please alert us if you have noticed any lumps, bumps or changes on your mouth or neck so we can screen the areas for abnormalities. Early detection is key for successful treatment!

Jeannie’s Breast Cancer Survival Tips

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    • If a member of your family had a form of breast cancer, find out what type. For example, invasive lobular carcinoma does not share the same diagnostic characteristics as ductile carcinoma in situ.
    • As mentioned above, knowing your family history will help you make more informed decisions about things like hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, etc. Some cancers are fueled by estrogen and you should discuss risks with your physician.
    • Know under what type of density your breast tissue is classified. There are 4 medical “types”: fatty, normal, moderately dense and highly dense. If you fall into the moderately to highly dense category, discuss the possibility of getting a 3-D mammogram! My tissue type was considered very dense and my 4 tumors were not detected by the “normal” mammograms.
    • Breast care nurses no longer do manual breast exams at mammogram centers due to state policy BUT they can be done by your OB/GYN if you request them. My cancer was first found by a routine manual breast exam followed by a 3-D mammogram to verify the findings. I feel that the manual breast exam is what allowed my invasive cancer to be found while in Stage 1.
    • If you or a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, please know that there is so much hope! Breast cancer research has increased survival of this disease tremendously. Allow the people in your life to share in your journey, help you in daily tasks when you are tired and gain inspiration from you. Truly, new “angels” enter your life in the form of survivors, nurses and doctors, caring co-workers and neighbors. This loving support is part of your treatment.
    • Finally, knowing that breast cancer treatments keep improving, stay positive BUT realize that when the treatment is done, you can greatly increase your health by adopting modifiable lifestyle factors:
      • Diet
        • Mediterranean diet or vegetarian diet
        • Removing white sugar and flour from your diet
        • Intermittent fasting
      • Daily exercise
      • Stress reduction techniques
  • If I can ever be of assistance, I will gladly share my survivor lessons in more detail, as they are too numerous to mention! Consider me an email away at

Notes from the hygiene department:

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Flossing has quietly lost its place among recommendations for daily health, at least as prescribed in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are issued every five years by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. This has come as a surprise to many patients as well as the general dental community, posing the question, if flossing does not help my oral health then why do my gums stop bleeding when I floss each day?

Needless to say, the Mallard Family gang was aghast at this proclamation as we have seen first-hand how much daily flossing has transformed the oral health of our patients. So what gives?

We will acknowledge that flossing is not the only – or the best – way of cleaning those murky little interdental spaces. As a matter of fact, if you can fit a “Soft Pic” or an interdental brush between your teeth, you will most probably do a much more effective job at preventing both decay and gum diseases. Note that I wrote “most probably.” This is due to the fact that very few empirical or long-term studies are funded to actually test the efficacy of oral hygiene practices. We know they work, but why aren’t they studied in academic settings?

In order to test the hypothesis that flossing has a positive effect on dental decay, researchers would need a very large sample size. We need to make sure that the sample of people we recruit is representative of the U.S. population. Next, utilizing a randomized controlled design, we would need to randomly assign participants to either the no flossing control group or the flossing group. To adequately wait enough time to look for disease trends, we would need a testing period of at least 3 years… if not 5 years. What other variables could have an effect on dental health besides flossing? How about how much sugar (especially in the form of soda pop) is consumed, whether or not there is fluoride in the water supply, or if the person has had sealants or not? Think about the potential “other things” that can cause decay and then think about trying to find a way to build a study around them.

In summary, what the Dietary Guidelines for Americans failed to explain is that there are just not enough studies to make a “statement of fact.” That is because the studies are too lengthy and expensive and the funding could go to more pressing problems. We can offer you a mini-research project that you can do in your own homes. If you have a gum area that tends to bleed, floss or Soft Pic it daily for one week. With a confidence interval of 95%, we can guesstimate that the bleeding will stop. Reason? You have just removed the bad bacteria that causes dental diseases.

Mallard Family Dental Center is a Boise Idaho Dentist. Contact Us for more information.