Ask Mike Allen – Alternative Dental Treatments

Can good oral health be attained through ‘natural’ means?

Our next question in this series comes from a believer in ‘natural health’ products who wants to know if this can be extended into dental care.

Q. Over the years, my interest in alternative and natural health treatments has grown, and, where possible, I prefer to use herbal and other natural remedies. A friend of mine has recommended that I try oil pulling to keep my mouth healthy. I just wondered what your opinion of this is and if it would prevent the occasional ‘scale and polish’ which I find a little uncomfortable if I’m honest.

Thank you for your question and it is one that we have heard a few times, although not specifically about oil pulling. For me, the word ‘natural’ does not always mean it is necessarily a positive thing. For example, the gingival bacteria that live in our mouth and contribute to gum disease problems are ‘natural’ too.

Before addressing your specific question about oil pulling; I should also say that, at your handy Burton dental clinic, we have come across a number of patients who have been using natural toothpaste and are surprised that they have tooth decay. Whilst there is nothing wrong, as such, with natural toothpastes, many of them are non fluoride, and this means that tooth enamel can weaken and crack and become more prone to infection. If you do use a herbal toothpaste, please ensure that it does contain fluoride.

With regards to oil pulling. The theory, I believe, is that swilling oil around the mouth and then spitting it out, rids the mouth of the bad bacteria and therefore gum disease will not happen. Some claim, somewhat spuriously perhaps, that it also whitens the teeth.

There may be elements of truth in these claims, but even swilling just water around the mouth will remove some bacteria and food particles too. In fact, doing this after a meal is a good idea, though definitely not a replacement for good oral health care.

Unfortunately, this is not the whole story and the use of oil pulling instead of using a good quality toothpaste, dental floss and having a professional teeth cleaning session with a hygienist, is not likely to prevent gum disease.

The fact is that gingival bacteria attach themselves to the teeth and gum line and harden in a form known as tartar. This cannot be removed through swilling or even brushing, but requires professional dental care to remove it. Failure to do so can eventually lead to an advanced gum disease known as periodontitis, and it is this that can lead to tooth loss due to bone degradation.

You mentioned that you don’t like having a scale and polish done, and some patients do find it a little uncomfortable. The fact is though, that if you simply opt for oil pulling and don’t floss or see one of our Burton dentists for check ups, the likelihood is that you will eventually reach the stage where not only is a simple clean necessary, but one which goes down to the roots of the tooth which would be significantly more uncomfortable than a regular clean.

My advice to you would be, by all means, eat naturally and use herbal products where appropriate, but always make sure to use a fluoride toothpaste, dental floss and ensure that you visit Mike Allen’s Dental Practice every six months or so, so that we can monitor the health of your mouth.

I hope that helps to answer your question and we are happy to check your oral health for you if you have any concerns. You can contact our Burton practice on 01283 845345.