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.
Question: 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!