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We Asked A Dentist If Holistic Oral Treatments Are All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for ten minutes a day, brushing your teeth with thick, black, charcoal toothpaste and scraping your tongue with a weird-shaped copper instrument are just a few of the trends that have taken the wellness world by storm in recent years. While it should be noted that oil pulling and tongue scraping have been around for thousands of years as central tenets of Ayurvedic medicine and so are hardly modern-day fads, we’ve gotta wonder whether or not these methods are they all they’re cracked up to be.

We ask an expert whether these DIY, holistic treatments are really cutting the mustard when it comes to your oral health. Here’s what Dr. Peter Aldritt, dentist and consultant to the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee had to say:

Tongue scraping and oil pulling

As someone who oil pulls and tongue scrapes on a (sometimes) daily basis, I can truly feel the benefits that both of these Ayurveda-inspired acts have on my overall sense of wellbeing. However, only tongue scraping gets a thumbs-up from Peter.

He says “tongue scraping is a really useful activity because it removes plaque from the upper surface of your tongue—which attracts a lot of plaque and food debris. Having plaque grow on your tongue is one of the most common causes of bad breath, so scraping or brushing your tongue daily is a great oral health habit.”

Photo by Dana Tentis from Pexels

When it comes to oil pulling, however, he isn’t so keen. He points out that there isn’t any scientific evidence for claims of toxin removal and teeth whitening when oil pulling, and so he instead encourages everyone to focus on brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing once a day—both of which are proven to reduce tooth decay and gum disease.

While the Ayurvedic community would definitely take umbrage with this Western-medicine standpoint it should be pointed out that oil pulling isn’t at all acidic or harmful, so if you enjoy the routine of it (*raises hand*), you aren’t doing yourself any damage.

Charcoal toothpastes, mouthwashes, and whiteners

Thanks to its unique ability to bind to toxic substances and stop them being absorbed by the body, charcoal is cropping up left, right and centre in holistic oral health products. But, while they can offer quite impressive natural results, Peter warns against charcoal products as they’re potentially very abrasive on the tooth surface, which can quickly cause enamel to wear away.

Baking soda

The hero of home-made teeth whitening products, baking soda has been long touted as a cost-effective miracle worker for enhancing those pearly whites thanks to its abrasive qualities and ability to remove stains.

It’s this abrasiveness that dentists are wary of, however, with Peter explaining “in an attempt to whiten your teeth with these products you may actually be abrading the tooth enamel, making it thinner. Then the yellow layer of dentine will show through and your teeth will actually look yellower and become more sensitive”, which, letzbereal, isn’t exactly the desired impact, is it?

Lemon juice

Some people use lemon juice, sometimes mixed with baking soda to brush their teeth, claiming it whitens and bleaches their teeth. However, lemon juice is highly acidic and this procedure, done regularly will cause severe erosion (where the acid dissolves the tooth enamel) as well as abrasion (from the scrubbing action of the toothbrush and/or baking soda).

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Peter explains that he frequently sees severe erosion of teeth in people who drink lemon juice in water every day. So for ardent fans of this morning habit, it might be high time to dig out the stainless steel straws or limit your consumption to once per week instead of every day.

Dental Health Week kicks off on Monday 6th August, with a focus on helping Australians to recognise the importance of oral hygiene practices as well as highlighting the preventative importance of regular visits with their dentist. The emphasis for 2018 is Watch Your Mouth, which brings to light the importance of caring for your whole mouth, not just your teeth.

Check out this website for more info (and carry the heck on oil pulling if you want to.)

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