Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your Dental Horoscope: Converts, Obesessors and Casuals.

People come in all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of habits.  Nobody is perfect.  When it comes to caring for their teeth, my patients run the gamut from "I brush five times a day and floss after every meal," to "Floss? What's floss?"

Some people are "Converts."  I'm one myself.  Converts had dental issues as a child or adult.  They may have worn braces.  They definitely have fillings and/or crowns and perhaps have had a root canal or two.  They know how many shots of anesthetic it takes to get them numb.  They don't want to go through that anymore.  They don't want to spend the money on it.  They've realized that toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss are much less expensive than fillings and caps, and prefer to spend their cash on outrageous items like food, clothing and rent.  They see the value in maintaining what they've got.  They take it as a personal failure if they get a cavity and may become depressed.  A "Dental Horoscope" for the Convert would be as follows: You are a practical, conscientious person.  You value your time and the time of others so you make an extra effort to get the job done.  You count every dollar and every blessing.  You are cheap.

Then there are the "Obsessors."  (It's a nicer term than fanatic, don't you think?)  Obsessors love their teeth.  They own several electric toothbrushes with a variety of features.  They typically have had little or no dental work.  If they have a filling, they remember exactly when they got it and why: "I told Aunt Zelda to NOT send me those cookies.  Then Hurricane Wanda hit.  We had no water and drank only soda for three days."  They now have an emergency kit with three days supply of water in their home and their car.  Obsessors will call a week before their dental hygiene appointment to confirm.  Obsessors have taken great care of their teeth their whole lives.  Maybe too great.  They have areas of gum recession and enamel wear that may cause them to need fillings or gum surgery.  Intervention and compliance are necessary.  They must be taught brushing techniques, like using the non-dominant hand with a soft (SOFT) brush, so that they don't brush their gums and teeth right out of their mouths.  They must be reminded that they are brushing teeth, not grout.  Their horoscope would read something like this: You are a precise and organized person.  You believe there is a place for everything and everything in its place.  If everyone just did what you said, life would be perfect. Your life, that is.  You will make a note in the comments section challenging my usage of the word obesessor as a noun and not as a verb with the direct object.

Finally, there are the "Casuals".  "Hey," I might say to one of these folks, "how'd you break that front tooth?"  They might answer, "My front tooth is broken?"  Casuals take a long pause before answering the question, "How often do you floss?" A really long pause.  But most Casuals are exceedingly honest.  They won't lie about their dental hygiene routine because they don't have one.  And they know that as soon as you look in their mouths you'll know it, too.  With the right encouragement, Casuals can become Converts or even Obsessors.  For the dental professional this could be accomplished using words such as periodontal disease, bone loss and severely bleeding gums.  Their spouses or significant others may also inspire change using phrases like, "Your breath stinks," or "I wouldn't kiss you with a ten foot pole."  Here is the horoscope for the Casuals:  You are honest, forthright and open.  You believe that others should be honest and forthright and open, too.  Unless they are giving you bad news.  Then you don't mind engaging in some good, old-fashioned denial.

Are you a Convert, Obsessor, or Casual, or are you somewhere in between? 

Wishing you good health, Yvonne

This blog is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any condition or illness.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Oil Pulling - Fab or Fad?

Oil pulling is an method of oral cleansing that has its origins in Ayurveda, a 3,000 year old Indian medical system.  Ayurvedic medicine is steeped in tradition and has at its core a belief in herbal and natural ingredients, diet, nutrition, and exercise, as well as the interrelationship of a person's health, environment, and the universe.

There has been a lot of interest recently regarding oil pulling and the benefit of oils in general.  Oil pulling is said to cleanse toxins from the mouth, teeth and gums, cure toothaches, freshen breath and whiten teeth.  The traditional method of oil pulling involves swishing sesame seed oil over, between and around the teeth and tongue for 10 to 20 minutes or more. It is important to not gargle with or swallow the oil.  The oil is spit out when it becomes thin and white in color.  Coconut oil and grape seed oil, due to their anti-bacterial properties, have also become popular for oil pulling.  Other oils can be used but are not considered to have the same health benefits.  Oil pulling is anecdotally lauded as beneficial and some small research studies have yielded positive results for it's antibacterial properties similar to conventional rinses like chlorhexidine.

Essential oils such as those used in Listerine mouthwash - eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol - have been well established through research and use as beneficial and antiseptic.  Listerine was the first antiseptic used in medical procedures and is named after Sir Joseph Lister, who introduced the first hygiene procedures in surgery, like hand washing and sterilizing instruments, during the 1860s.  It seems, then, that oils have their place in both medical and oral health history.

So what's the problem with oil pulling? After all, it uses natural ingredients that are relatively inexpensive and is an established practice of an ancient Indian medical system.  Here's the problem: to benefit from oil pulling's anti-bacterial properties it must be done for 10 to 15 minutes - minimum. Twenty minutes is thought to be optimal.  Consider the fact that many people often find it difficult to brush for the recommend two minutes, two times a day!

In order to try oil pulling for myself, I used an oil I had on hand (olive) and could not continue past three minutes.  Nothing about the experience made me want to become proficient at it and I'm pretty open to new methods of oral hygiene.  Sesame seed oil, the oil traditionally used, has a much stronger taste so I doubt I'd be any more successful using that.  I also think that swishing with any non-sweetened liquid, even water, for twenty minutes, would have some cleansing benefits.  Hopefully, more research will be done on this interesting practice.

So, with all due respect to those who successfully perform this practice as part of their health regimen, oil pulling is not for everyone.  Successfully adopting it into a daily dental hygiene routine does not seem practical or more beneficial as compared with other methods of hygiene.  Oil pulling will most likely prove to be a passing health and beauty fad, except for the most tenacious of people already dedicated to the practice.

Have you tried oil pulling?  I invite your comments or questions.

This blog is for entertainment purposes only.  It is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition or illness.  Please visit your doctor or dentist if you have medical or dental concerns.