I occasionally run across fads and trends on the internet related to dental care, some of them very concerning. I remember seeing a number of posts from people promoting the use of baking soda and peroxide as a DIY whitener for teeth. YIKES!
The abrasiveness of baking soda should NEVER be used on teeth since it can wear down protective tooth enamel. This leaves teeth vulnerable to oral bacteria and cavities.
Too, the scrubbing action of a tooth brush combined with harsh abrasives can also wear away gum tissue that tightly ‘wraps’ each tooth. This gum tissue helps to protect tooth roots and keep oral bacteria from penetrating below the gum line.
As a dentist, I understand that some ‘home remedies’ are how some people save money and feel more in control of certain parts of their oral care. I get that. However, when it comes to certain at-home practices, I also have a firsthand view of the damage that can occur.
A recent trend is oil pulling. Some on-line contributors even state how they use oil pulling instead of brushing and flossing. This is concerning, especially since the American Dental Association (ADA) has carefully evaluated oil pulling and issued the following: “scientific studies have not provided the necessary clinical evidence to demonstrate that oil pulling reduces the incidence of dental caries, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being.”
The ADA feels that past studies failed to include sufficient sampling and blind testing with a lack of demographic information. But, is oil pulling harmful? Not that I can find IF, however, it is an adjunct to the ‘gold standard’ in dentistry of twice daily brushing and daily flossing. (www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oil-pulling)
If you’re not clear on what oil pulling is, it is a holistic medicine practice that supposedly balances the body’s doshas, said to be the biological energies found throughout the human body and mind. Oil pulling claims to balance these doshas and susceptibility to disease.
Here’s how oil pulling is done: For 5 to 15 minutes, coconut oil (the most common oil used) is swished in the mouth. This is intended to pull impurities from the mouth, eliminating toxins and bacteria from the body. Other oils used are sesame, olive or palm oil.
Online there are claims that oil pulling can also “prevent bleeding gums, decay, dryness of throat, oral malodor, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw.” (www.livescience.com/50896-oil-pulling-facts.html)
Coconut, olive and sesame oils are gaining deserved popularity in the kitchen. Their health benefits far outweigh those of highly processed vegetable oils and trans fat oils. However, relying on cooking oils, even the good ones, to replace the tried-&-true measures of brushing and flossing is, in my opinion, risky and without merit.
I feel oil pulling as a part of your traditional oral hygiene routine at home is fine. Anything that cleanly moisturizes the gum tissues can’t hurt (although drinking filtered water is the ideal way to keep a hydrated mouth).
Think of oil pulling as an addition to your current oral care and 6-month dental checkups. During these visits, we can catch potential problems early and determine how you can alter your at-home regimen to avoid continued susceptibility.
I remember reading about a young celebrity who revealed that she swished with Listerine rather than brush or floss. I cringed at how her statement may have influenced readers, especially those who follow these ‘stars’ so intently. As far as oil pulling, use it in conjunction with a thorough oral regimen and know your smile is getting sound care.