Research Continues to Support Oil Pulling

Since oil pulling turned trendy last year, research has continued to show that it works – and that it works with a variety of different oils, though sesame, as noted before, has been the traditional go-to oil.

But it may be taking jars of coconut oila backseat to coconut oil, about which the news seems to get only better.

The latest comes courtesy of a study just published in the Nigerian Medical Journal, which evaluated the impact of coconut oil pulling on the oral health of young adults. All participants had been diagnosed with plaque induced gingivitis (mild gum disease). After just one week, there was “a statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices” of participants. That improvement continued through the rest of the 30 day testing period.

Of course, one thing this study can’t say is whether a different oil would bring different results. It was a preliminary study, after all. There was no control group. But the authors did speculate on how coconut oil in particular might work – and thus cast some light on one possibility for why it may work better than other oils.

Coconut oil has a high saponification value and is one of the most commonly used oil in making soaps. The soaps produced with coconut oil can lather well and have an increased cleansing action. The lauric acid in the coconut oil can easily react with sodium hydroxide in saliva during oil pulling to form sodium laureate, the main constituent of soap which might be responsible for the cleansing action and decreased plaque accumulation.

The significant reduction in gingivitis can be attributed to decreased plaque accumulation and the anti-inflammatory, emollient effect of coconut oil.

And there might be more. Earlier research – such as this study from 2012 – has shown that coconut oil has pronounced antimicrobial effect. A literature review published last year in IJSS Case Reports & Reviews offers a good summary of additional findings:

Recently, results from many studies revealed that the monolaurin, the monoglycerides of lauric acid from coconut oil had antimicrobial activity against various Gram-positive and Gram-negative organisms, including Escherichia vulneris, Enterobcater spp., Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida spp., including Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicali, Candida parapsilosis, Candida stellatoidea and Candida krusei, as well as enveloped viruses. Though the exact antibacterial mechanism of the action of coconut oil is still unclear, it was hypothesized that monolaurin and other medium chain monoglycerides had the capacity to alter bacterial cell walls, penetrate and disrupt cell membranes, inhibit enzymes involved in energy production and nutrient transfer, leading to the death of the bacteria.

That said, while oil pulling is hardly a replacement for regular old brushing and flossing – let alone a cure for all ills, as some have claimed – it’s easy, inexpensive, and it can give a real boost to your home hygiene, especially if you’re in a constant battle with gum disease. We’ve seen patients really turn conditions around once they begin oil pulling.

Give it a try and see what you think! (Need the hows? Here you go!)

Image by Chiot’s Run, via Flickr

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Biological Terrain & the Development of Chronic Illness

View Dr. Rau’s complete lecture.

Learn more about the biological terrain and its role in illness and health.

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Stat!: The Way to Decay

  • Percent of Americans who don’t brush their teeth twice a day, as recommended: 40
  • Percent who, when they do brush, brush less than the recommended 2 minutes: 50+
  • Percent who never floss at all: 33
  • Grams of added sugar eaten daily by the average American: 77+
  • Grams of sugar eaten daily by the top 20% of consumers: about 190
  • The World Health Organization’s recommended maximum daily intake of added sugars for the average non-overweight adult: 25 grams
  • Percent of adults who have had dental caries (tooth decay): 92

Sources: Reuters, Food Engineering, CBS News, National Institue of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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Eminently Quotable: H. Gilbert Welch

blood sample and lab formsDr. Welch is a professor of medicine at Dartmouth (and author of the excellent book Overdiagnosed) who was recently asked to comment on Mark Cuban’s suggestion that anyone who can afford it should get quarterly bloodwork to track their health – advice Dr. Welch called “a recipe for making all of us sick.”

We all harbor abnormalities, and increasingly our technologies are able to detect them – be they biochemical, be they structural. We can see things down to millimeters in size; we can measure things down to parts per billion; and we can sequence the whole genome. That’s 3 billion data points.

So there’s no shortage of biometric data that people could be collecting on themselves regularly, and by the way, there’s a huge financial interest in having people do that. The market of the well is a huge, huge market.

The problem is you’ll always be catching things out of what we would say is normal. This is anticipatory medicine at its worst, where you’re really focused on what could be going wrong in the future and you’re trying to pick up [a] signal.

The problem is there’s so much noise, because the human body is a living organism. Variation is the very essence of life. People will start reacting to this data. I also think it’s really important to label it what it is: data. To me it only becomes information to the extent that it accurately predicts something will happen in the future, and it only becomes useful knowledge – a higher level piece of information – if we can do something about it.

The entire interview this is taken from deserves a read – likewise, this related post on NPR’s Shots blog.

Image by jaubele1, via Flickr

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Mercury Amalgam Fail

open amalgam capsuleLast month, a study published in the European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry found that composite and glass ionomer fillings failed more often than amalgam in children between the ages of 6 and 12. While most of the 300 cases the authors reviewed were successful, a little more than 20% required either the filling re-done or the tooth extracted.

By far, ionomer fillings fared worst, accounting for about half of all failures. Approximately 30% involved composites. The rest were mercury amalgams.

But this hardly means, “Yay, amalgam!” As Dr. Bicuspid reports,

The authors pointed to a comparative health risk evaluation of amalgam- and resin-based restorative materials that was presented at the 2013 Minamata Convention on Mercury. The report supports the World Health Organization’s position in advocating a phase down of dental amalgam, but it also highlights the need for improvements in the quality of alternative materials.

They added that countries with low levels of dental disease have very limited use of amalgam, and since all currently available materials have their drawbacks, effective prevention is the optimal way forward.

Effort would be better spent, they added, in “comparing performance and safety of the newer materials in primary teeth.”

Indeed. And in this sense, amalgam fails.

After all, it’s mercury we’re talking about – and kids, whose brains are still developing and who are much more susceptible to the effects of mercury. There is no argument that mercury is neurotoxic. There should be no argument that it has no place in dentistry, especially in the mouths of one of our most vulnerable populations; especially not when there are ever more alternatives available – including strong, durable resins that are fluoride-free, BPA-free and broadly biocompatible.

But as the authors note, the best solution of all is effective prevention, side-stepping the need for restorative materials all together. Simply, you don’t need to restore teeth that don’t become decayed.

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Is There A Battery In Your Mouth? (Guest Post)

Our thanks to the office of St. Louis biological dentist Dr. Michael Rehme for letting us share his article on an often overlooked dental condition: oral galvanism.

Is there a battery in your mouth?

That’s a strange question to ask or is it? Did you know that most metals found in your mouth have the ability to create an electrical charge? This charge can be responsible for numerous side effects that are rarely associated with the dental work found in your mouth.

Galvanic current is a term that has been used in dentistry for over 100 years. It is a condition created by the presence of dissimilar metals in the oral cavity of the teeth and gums, with saliva serving as the electrolyte. Have you ever felt a “shock” to your teeth caused by a piece of tin foil or a spoon that touches a sliver or mercury filling in your mouth? If you answer yes to this question, you’ve experienced a galvanic event.

mixed metal dental restorationsThere are several different types of galvanism: 1) A silver/mercury filling is placed in opposition or adjacent to a tooth restored with gold. These dissimilar metals in conjunction with saliva and body fluids constitute an electric cell. When brought into contact, the circuit is shorted, the flow of electrical current passes through the pulp, and the patient experiences pain. 2) Dissimilar metals coming into contact when the upper and lower teeth come together and touch each other. 3) Two adjacent teeth are restored with dissimilar metals. The current flows from metal to metal through the dentine, bone and tissue fluids of both teeth resulting in discomfort and tooth sensitivity.

We learned about the galvanic current in dental school. We’ve read about it in dental journals. However, how often do dentists follow the protocols that are necessary to avoid this condition from occurring? The dental profession needs to be more aware of the negative effects that are caused by galvanic currents and be committed to prevent the unwanted, and often harmful, electrical charges or imbalances from occurring.

Other than tooth sensitivity, galvanism can cause a metallic or salty taste in the mouth, increase salivary secretion, and burning or tingling sensation of the tongue. Other systemic complications may include headaches, chronic fatigue, memory loss, sleep deprivation and even irritability due to its effects to the central nervous system.

The brain operates on 7 to 9 nano-amps which is 1000 times weaker than the currents resulting from non-precious metals found in the oral cavity. That is the difference between touching a 9 volt battery and sticking your finger in the light socket as far as the brain is concerned. Since the upper teeth are less than 2 inches from the brain, it is of concern that adding this much excess electrical activity has the potential of creating mis-directed impulses in the brain.

How can you tell if you have a galvanic current occurring in your mouth? The good news is that it can be measured. An electrical potential meter known as the Rita Meter can be used to measure electrical charges on fillings, crowns and metallic appliances. (Normal readings range from +2/-2 micro-amps.)

Healthy gold crowns or composite resins (tooth colored fillings) most often register a positive charge. When they register a negative charge greater than -2, it usually indicates either decay under an old filling or there’s an amalgam/mercury filling under a crown.

If these symptoms sound familiar or if you’ve had 4 or 5 different dentists caring for your dental needs over the years, chances are much greater that there are several dissimilar metals to be found in your mouth.

Metals will not necessarily always cause the galvanic effect in the mouth. It depends on the specific metal and alloy being used along with quantity and placement in the mouth. However, knowing that some of the above symptoms could be dental related may provide you with an opportunity to evaluate your mouth from a different perspective and discover once and for all if there is a galvanic current present in one or multiple sites in your mouth.

Solution? Remove the offending material(s) connected with that particular tooth or teeth in order to reduce this unwanted electrical charge and create a balanced condition. Biological dentistry views galvanism as an obstacle to achieving overall health and wellness. Keep it simple, keep it safe. A balanced body is a healthy body.

Image via DentalGama

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Xylitol: “Not the Silver Bullet”

xylitol crystalsOver the past several years, we’ve heard more and more about xylitol as a means of preventing cavities. Does it work? As our regular readers know, the evidence has seemed mixed at best.

A new Cochrane review of the research confirms that suspicion. So far, there doesn’t seem to be enough good quality evidence to say much at all about xylitol’s ability to counter decay. Of the 10 studies the authors included, 7 were found to be “at high risk of bias.” Only one was considered at low risk.

Bias wasn’t the only problem, however. According to a press release on the findings,

In most cases, the studies used such different methods that the researchers could not combine the results to create a summary effect estimate. Based on information from 4,216 school children who took part in two Costa Rican studies, they found low quality evidence that levels of tooth decay were 13% lower in those who used a fluoride toothpaste containing xylitol for three years, compared to those who used a fluoride-only toothpaste. For other xylitol-containing products, such as xylitol syrup, lozenges and tablets, there was little or no evidence of any benefit.

So does this mean ditch the xylitol? Not necessarily. It does mean it’s something you probably don’t want to rely on to keep you caries-free.

Even researchers who found positive results have noted that xylitol “is not the silver bullet.”

Indeed, no single, isolated intervention probably is.

Image by Østergaard, via Wikimedia Commons

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