New "No

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Good news for those afraid of the dentist’s drill: New research suggests that a “no-drill” approach can halt tooth decay in many cases.

An Australian team’s seven-year study found that the need for fillings fell 30 to 50 percent if patients used preventive care after the first sign of tooth decay.

“It’s unnecessary for patients to have fillings because they’re not required in many cases of dental decay,” study lead author Wendell Evans, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, said in a university news release.

The findings highlight “the need for a major shift in the way tooth decay is managed by dentists,” he believes.

Many people believe that even the smallest sign of tooth decay warrants a filling. But Evans said that the decay does not always progress and often develops more slowly than widely believed.

“For example, it takes an average of four to eight years for decay to progress from the tooth’s outer layer (enamel) to the inner layer (dentine),” he said. “That is plenty of time for the decay to be detected and treated before it becomes a cavity and requires a filling.”

The no-drill approach developed by Evans and his colleagues has four aspects: application of high-concentration fluoride varnish to the site of early tooth decay; attention to home tooth-brushing skills; no between-meals snacks or drinks with added sugar; and regular monitoring.

Tests of this approach on patients at a number of general dentistry practices “showed that early decay could be stopped and reversed, and that the need for drilling and filling was reduced dramatically,” Evans said.

But will the dreaded drill become obsolete? Not anytime soon, Evans said, because advanced cavities need filling. Still, “a tooth should only be drilled and filled where an actual hole-in-the-tooth (cavity) is already evident,” he said.

Two dentists in the United States said that the no-drill approach does have some merit, and in some cases is already used.

“This is a standard approach for those children identified as high-caries [cavity] risk,” said Dr. Paul Crespi, director of pediatric dental medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “These patients are treated with fluoride varnishes, dietary modification, and therapeutic dental materials that have the capacity to reverse dental caries without placing fillings.”

He also noted that in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved SDF (sodium diamine fluoride), a compound that can reverse or stop “significant” cavities without the need for drilling.

Dr. John Pfail is chair of the department of dentistry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He agreed that cavity formation in teeth “is an entirely preventable disease through proper oral hygiene and healthy eating habits.”

However, he noted that the study did have some flaws. For example, about half of the 22 dental practices originally enrolled in the study dropped out before the trial’s end. According to Pfail, no-drill cavity prevention relies largely on the patient following a dentist’s instruction as regards to brushing, eating habits, and other practices.

That’s not always easy because “modern culture tends to promote sugary snacks and beverages more than ever before,” Pfail said.

“Today, getting people to implement proper oral hygiene habits is one of the biggest challenges faced by dentists,” he explained.

The study was published Dec. 6 in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion outlines how to take care of your teeth and gums.

News Roundup: Blood

Problem drug may improve memoryThe drug erythropoietin has had a tough time recently. It’s been in the news for athletic doping scandals, a stepped up warning for cancer patients, and possible overuse in people undergoing kidney dialysis. Now there’s some good news about the genetically engineered version of a natural hormone that spurs the growth of red blood cells. A new study in mice suggests that the drug does indeed have a memory-enhancing effect, which has been reported by patients taking it. Tests conducted on tissue from the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, found that it boosts “excitatory nerve impulses in certain neurons,” according to a report in the journal BMC Biology. Could the drug be useful for neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis? Maybe, say the German researchers.

Denture-cream fanatics experience brain problemsIf you wear dentures, go easy on the denture cream. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas looked at four heavy denture-cream users who developed neurological problems. All the patients had abnormally high blood levels of zinc (an ingredient in the creams) and low levels of copper, according to the study in the journal Neurology. Because the patients used “extremely large amounts” of the cream, the doctors hypothesize that the abnormal zinc infusion threw their zinc-copper balance out of whack. Symptoms such as weakness in the arms and legs, poor balance, incontinence, and cognitive decline improved when two of the patients stopped using cream and began taking copper supplements, Reuters Health reports. But don’t assume denture cream is a serious health hazard. The study was tiny, and the patients’ use was over the top: A typical tube lasts up to 10 weeks, but the patients used two tubes a week. The study’s authors advise heavy denture-cream users to talk to their doctors about their dose.

Get it while you can: Free medical schoolIt sounds like a dream come true for medical students who rack up an average of $140,000 in debt along with their MD degree: The University of Central Florida’s brand new medical school is accepting applications for its first class, and is offering scholarships that cover tuition, fees, and living expenses, according to the Wall Street Journal’s health blog. No surprise that the school received nearly 3,000 applicants for the 40 slots, which are being funded by donations. The freebies won’t last; although scholarships will be offered for subsequent classes, the all-expenses-paid deal only applies to the university’s first class. The annual living stipend is $20,000, UCF Dean Deborah German told the WSJ. “If they live frugally, it will cover everything.”

“Fat” genes may be overcome with excessive exerciseGetting 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day is challenging enough. How about three to four hours? That’s how much exercise it takes to maintain a normal weight if you have genetic predisposition toward obesity, which is found in roughly 30% of people of European descent. In a new study in Archives of Internal Medicine, Amish people living in Lancaster County, Pa., who had the genetic predisposition needed three to four hours of moderate activity every day to maintain a normal weight. If you think you’re in the hefty gene pool, every bit of activity—such as eschewing elevators for stairs and walking instead of driving—helps, say the study’s authors.

Casual dress code may undermine doctor credThe National Health Service in the U.K. has a new dress code that says that doctors can’t wear ties or long-sleeve shirts, because they might spread infections in hospitals. But the new rule is controversial, according to a report in BJU International. Some doctors feel that the more casual look might undermine patient confidence, writes Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times. And they say evidence is weak that such clothing items are any more likely to spread germs than pens or stethoscopes. Patients do prefer a physician with a more formal look, and a revealing or too casual look is a concern. What’s more, a focus on clothes may detract from one tried-and-true behavior that stops infections: hand washing.

Depression during pregnancy may harm child laterIt’s generally understood that maternal postpartum depression can impact a child’s formative years, causing potential delays in cognitive, behavioral, emotional, or social development. Now, for the first time, researchers in the U.K. have posited that some of the same harmful effects may be caused by maternal depression during pregnancy. Researchers at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health at the University of the West of England in Bristol found a 34% increase in the odds of developmental delay in children of mothers who were depressed while pregnant. The results appear to bolster previous hypotheses that anxiety in a mother can impact fetal development. Without suggesting specific remedies, lead author Toity Deave, PhD, told Reuters Health that concerned moms who feel depressed should see a health professional, adding that depressed parents can still promote their child’s development with close parent-child interactions and stimulating and fun playtime activities.


Sports Drinks May Be Bad for Your Teeth


By Mara BetschFRIDAY, April 3, 2009 ( — Sports drinks can rehydrate you after a workout, but they also may wreak havoc on your teeth. Prolonged consumption of these types of beverages could lead to erosive tooth wear, according to a study presented at the International Association for Dental Research in Miami on Friday.

And a second study presented at the meeting suggests that drinking white wine can be a problem too: It may lead to stained teeth.

Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, professor and chairman of the department of cardiology and comprehensive care at New York University College of Dentistry, and his colleagues immersed cow teeth (because of their similarity to human teeth) in either water or a top-selling sports drink—including Vitamin Water, Life Water, Gatorade, Powerade, and Propel Fit Water. After soaking for 75 to 90 minutes, to replicate consuming a beverage over time, researchers measured the strength of the teeth.

Previous studies found that sports beverages can damage tooth enamel—even more so than soda—due to a combination of acidic components, sugars, and additives. This research looked specifically at the way sports drinks affected dentin, the dental tissue under enamel that determines the size and shape of teeth.

All of the tested sports drinks caused softening of the dentin, and Gatorade and Powerade caused significant staining. The researchers used cut-in-half teeth in the study, which exposed the dentin.

“Sports drinks are very acidic drinks. When they become your soft drink, your fluid, then you run the real risk of very significant effects, such as etching the teeth and actually eroding the dentin if you have exposed roots,” says Dr. Wolff.

Any beverage that has high acid content can weaken the enamel, making the teeth more susceptible to bacteria that can sneak into the cracks and crevices in the teeth. Sugar can exacerbate the situation, encouraging the bacterial growth, according to Kimberly Harms, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “Sugar is bad, and acid is bad, but many of these [sports] drinks have both. The combination causes tooth decay,” says Dr. Harms.

Dr. Wolff says adults shouldn’t choose a sports drink as their everyday beverage, but Dr. Harms says it’s more important for younger people to avoid excess intake. “The group I’m most concerned with are the high schoolers and teenagers, because they carry the drinks around school with them.”

Next page: Better to drink in one sitting than sip all day

Athletes and even sports enthusiasts don’t have to give up their sports drinks completely. “The most important factor is exposure,” says Dr. Harms. Drinking a sports beverage in one sitting is not as damaging to your teeth as sipping on one throughout the day. Other preventative techniques include sipping through a straw and drinking plenty of water to flush the mouth, she says.

However, Craig Horswill, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, says “This study does not replicate real life as the teeth were studied extracted from the mouth.”

He notes that an Ohio State University study of about 300 athletes “concluded that there is no relationship between the consumption of sports drinks and dental erosion.”

Either way, you may want to resist the urge to grab your toothbrush immediately after finishing your sports drink, says Dr. Wolff. “Mom always told you to brush your teeth after meals, but you may be damaging the tooth structure.” The tooth enamel softens after consuming a sports drink, making teeth sensitive to the harsh properties in toothpaste. Instead, wait 45 minutes to an hour before you brush, and let your mouth do the work. “Saliva has the capability of re-mineralizing the tooth structure and neutralizing the damage.”

Drinking White Wine Can Lead to Stained Teeth


By Kate StinchfieldWEDNESDAY, April 1, 2009 ( – If you think you’re doing your teeth a favor by sipping white wine instead of red, you may need to rethink your tooth-whitening strategy. A new study shows that white wine has an acid content that tends to increase the risk of dark dental stains if you also drink tea or similar beverages.

New York University researchers compared the staining effects of red and white wine by submerging cow teeth in wine for one hour—the same effect as sipping a couple of glasses of wine over the course of a leisurely dinner. Why cow teeth? Their surface is similar to human teeth, says Mark Wolff, DDS, PhD, a professor and chairman of the department of cariology and comprehensive care at NYU’s College of Dentistry. The researchers then soaked the teeth in black tea, in an effort to mimic the same exposure you’d get from drinking several cups of tea.

Compared to water, the acidity of the white wine left teeth more susceptible to the tea stains. While white wine was still better than red wine in terms of subsequent tooth staining, if you drink any shade of vino you seem to be more vulnerable to staining by so-called chromogens—substances in tea and other food that discolor teeth.

“I used to give out this voodoo advice that patients should drink white wine, not red,” says Wolff, who was scheduled to present the study Wednesday at the International Association for Dental Research meeting in Miami. “But I was wrong.”

Next page: Why white wine can stain teeth

When combined with the beverage’s acidity, the tannins in white wine act as a binding protein and help chromogens to saturate the tooth’s surface, says Wolff. So when you linger over a cup of tea at the end of dinner, you are inadvertently discoloring your teeth. “Every time you do this, you increase the amount of stains on your teeth,” he says.

And although the researchers didn’t look at coffee, java drinkers might see some staining as well. In general, though, coffee doesn’t stain teeth as much as tea. “The intensity of the chromogen is less,” says Wolff.

Wolff says you don’t need to switch beverages just yet. It’s not the white wine itself that stains, it’s what you eat and drink while consuming it that counts. “If you’re consuming white wine, white grapes, and cheese, you aren’t going to see any staining,” he says.

However, brushing your teeth right after a sipping a crisp Chardonnay may actually make the problem worse. Brushing immediately after consuming a very acidic beverage may damage the tooth’s structure, says Wolff, so it’s better to wait for a bit. “Saliva has the capability of re-mineralizing the tooth structure and neutralizing damage,” he adds, “so give it 40 minutes to an hour before you brush your teeth.”

Still, some experts aren’t convinced. “When you take a sip of wine, your front teeth probably aren’t even touching it,” says Richard Price, DMD, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “That’s very different than submerging your teeth in wine, so I don’t know what the relevance to real life is here.”

And if saliva acts as a neutralizer over time, naysayers of the study claim that it would act as a buffering agent over the course of the meal, so winding down with a cup of tea shouldn’t leave you with a dingy grin.

“I’m not going to give up my Pinot Grigio,” says Price, “and I wouldn’t tell my patients to either.”

Related Links:Inexpensive Natural Wines That We LoveWhiten Your Teeth the Natural WayThe Healing Power of TeaCocktail Confidential: How Many Calories are Really in Your Favorite Drinks?

Chewing Gum Can Improve Memory, Foods That Zap Your Energy, and Why Maggots Are Good for You

We’ve heard about the surprising health benefits of things that aren’t immediately recognized as health foods, like beer, red wine, and coffee. But LSD and maggots? Some of these 10 bad things that are good for you sound too strange to be true. [LiveScience]

A new study suggests that small birth size may be a strong predictor of future sleep problems. The lower a baby’s length and weight at birth, the more likely the child is to have breathing problems, nightmares, and general poor sleep, even for healthy babies born at full-term. [Reuters]

In this late-August heat, we’ve been feeling pretty sluggish. Besides getting a good night’s sleep and staying hydrated, we’re also trying to avoid these six foods that zap your energy. [FitSugar]

Is it OK to put hot food directly into the fridge? Can you drink milk after the “sell by” date? Get answers to all your shelf-life questions with this handy Keep It or Toss It tool. [StillTasty]

We’ve got lots of little memory-boosting tricks up our sleeves, from taking deep breaths, to learning a new language, to exercising your eyes. Now there’s a simple way to bulk up on brain power that we really didn’t expect: chewing gum. [DivineCaroline]

Previous news from Around the Web:Yogis Eat Less, Oprah Sues Supplement Makers, and a Food Critic Struggles With BulimiaWhy Taken Guys Really Are The Best, 5 Harmful Natural Supplements, and a Shocking New Cure for CelluliteWomen Addicted to Pregnancy, How Photos of Cake Keep You Slim, and Why Your Dog Could Give You Food Poisoning

Beauty Tip: Power Wash Tooth Stains


Power washing your teeth is faster and easier than ever. For a 60-second DIY deep clean, try Philips Sonicare AirFloss—-I’m obsessed! Simply position the rubbery-tipped nozzle between two teeth, up at the gum line, then press the trigger.

A burst of air and micro-water droplets cleans 99% of plaque between teeth making your pearly whites even whiter and it massages gums—-it feels like a mini spa treatment for your mouth.

If you can’t do a proper cleaning after consuming any teeth-staining foods, give your mouth a good rinse with water or dry brush with a Colgate WISP—-it’s a disposable mini-brush with a breath-freshening bead that doesn’t require any water or rinsing.

A stick of sugarless gum can also be used in a pinch.

How to Whiten Your Teeth Naturally

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20 Things That Can Ruin Your Smile

Does Oral Health Predict Overall Health?

Illustration by Elaine Liu/

Upwards of 6 billion bacteria live inside the average human mouth. (Kiss me, now?) The wrong buildup of microorganisms in the mouth can lead to infections, tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Oral bacteria can also travel into the blood stream, causing or contributing to an array of diseases that affect more than just that smile. Regular dental upkeep—flossing, brushing, mouthwashing, waterpicking, and chewing sugar-free gum—keeps these bad boys under control.

Say “ahhh” – The need-to-knowThink it’s just those pearly whites that benefit from dental hygiene? Think again. Not only does oral upkeep stave off mouth odor, cavities, and gum problems, it’s also linked to life satisfaction and overall happiness. Maintaining those pearly whites pays off, big time. Not convinced? Take a page from the perils of poor oral hygiene for incentive to maintain a cleaner mouth. Below are six diseases that either contribute to or are affected by neglecting the dentist’s advice.


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Alzheimer’s disease. Impaired cognition doesn’t bode particularly well for remembering to brush, floss, and gargle. People suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are at a higher risk for poor oral health, primarily because they’re less able to independently attend to it. Many medications currently used to treat dementias also interfere with the mouth’s saliva production, which raises the risk of mouth and throat issues even higher.Cardiovascular disease. The hoards of bacteria festering in our mouths can easily infiltrate our bloodstreams. Bleeding gums, mouth sores, and other scrapes or bruises between our cheeks provide a green light for mouth microbes to wiggle their way into the circulatory system, inflame the tissues that line our heart (a condition called endocarditis), contribute to plaque build up in the arteries, and precipitate aneurysms. Tooth loss has also been linked to cardiovascular problems. Need we say more?Diabetes. The relationship between dental health and diabetes goes both ways: Oral infections interfere with blood sugar levels and diabetic symptoms set the stage for these infections to occur. An inflamed mouth is a breeding ground for chemical signals that interfere with sugar and fat metabolism by screwing with insulin secretion. Pesky proteins called cytokines build up around irritated or swelling tissues and can leak into the bloodstream to further throw off diabetics’ already impaired insulin secretion, marring the proper metabolism of sugar and fat found in the diet. Diabetics’ hyperglycemic state only worsens this inflammatory cycle: Too much sugar in the blood mars the structure of protein molecules in the blood, leading to swelling of tissues in the mouth…and elsewhere.Osteoporosis. While this might not be a worry in younger years, what we do now directly influences bone health later in life. Bone-mineral density has been shown to predict periodontal disease—and vice versa. A recent study tracking the rates of periodontal disease in postmenopausal women for five years found that the severity of their mouth problems and osteoporosis increased at a similar rate. The researchers believe this has much to do with how mineral loss makes teeth more susceptible to the bad sides of oral bacteria.Granted, women seem to be at a higher risk for osteoporosis and its related oral health concerns. But that’s no excuse for guys to shy away from the toothpaste aisle. The bones of both sexes can benefit from brushing up. (Actually, guys may need to try and do it a bit more.)Premature birth. Women who give birth to babies well before their due date tend to have more mouth infections than those who deliver babies closer to their ETAs. Molecular signals released by inflamed gums (cytokines and a species called C-reactive protein, to be exact) sneak out of the mouth and into the placenta via mom’s bloodstream. Damage done to still-in-the-oven offspring signals to her body that it’s time to get this puppy out, albeit ahead of schedule.Stress. Life stressors at work, home, or in the environment at large can interfere with our mouth’s ability to tolerate even normal levels of plaque. One study found that stressed out moms had higher rates of cavities and fewer teeth than their less stressed, child-free counterparts (whose mouths were no less nastier, by the way—both groups had the same average rates of tooth plaque). Another found that people working in high stress environments also had higher rates of cavities and other periodontal problems. The culprit(s)? Those inflammatory agents that puff up your body’s tissues. Stress makes them crop up too. Do your mouth—and the rest of yourself—a favor and take a breath, please.

Put your money where your mouth is – The takeawayCaring for those pearly whites (and the bacteria-laden box they inhabit) is crucial for overall health. Beyond yellow stains and icky breath, a dirty mouth can cause or significantly worsen some very serious health concerns.

Here are some tips to protect your body and mind, via your mouth.Brush up. Twice a day, for two minutes is the recommended amount for those interested in reducing plaque, avoiding cavities, and staving off gingivitis. Bristles can’t get everything. Floss at least once a day to make sure those between-teeth spaces don’t become home base for yesterday’s lunch. Regular flossing cuts down on the harder to reach plaque that leads to periodontal problems.

Rinse with antimicrobial mouthwash for 30 to 60 seconds each day and see bad breath, plaque and that gingivitis-causing oral bio-film melt away. (Just remember not to swallow.)

Get a new toothbrush at least once every four months. Those mouth microbes also build up on bristles and handles. While many are harmless, some can cause colds, flus, viruses, and infections.

Don’t ignore that pile of friendly reminder postcards. Pay your dentist a visit once every six months to catch cavities, gum disease, decay, or oral cancer before they get out of hand. That cleaning won’t hurt either. (Actually, it might. But it’s worth it.)

Chew a stick of sugar-free gum after meals or snacks to promote the human mouth’s most trusted health maintenance mechanism: saliva. Frequent chewers have fewer cavities, less plaque, and stronger teeth. Added benefits include a brain power boost.

Greatist is the fastest-growing fitness, health and happiness start-up. Check out more tips, expert opinion and fun times at

Awesome or Crazy? A Cupcake

Baked by Melissa (a New York City-based cupcake company known for its miniature varieties that come in out-of-the-box flavors like peanutbutter and jelly and s’mores) launched the first-ever cupcake “gumball” machine at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.

Yes, we said it: A cupcake gumball machine (and instead of gumballs, tiny cupcakes are dispensed).

Chances are, if you’re like me, you’re asking: “Won’t the little cupcakes get smooshed?”

Well, each cupcake (the size of a quarter) comes in a protective “pod” that keeps it perfectly positioned. And while the machines won’t be at your corner store any time soon, if you live in New York City, you could rent your very own sweet dispenser for your next party.

The downside: Rental prices aren’t cheap by any means–it’s $4,200 for 1000 standard cupcakes or $5,200 for 2,000 custom ones. Ouch.

The upside: If they do make it to your next party, it will be good news for your waistline, as each cupcake is merely 45 calories. (Now if we could only stop at three.)

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Hate Wine Stains on Your Teeth? How to Stain

Sick of wine stains on your teeth? New products aim to fix that. Health staffers sipped Cabernet and reported back!

Wine Straws(12 for $8; Drink red wine without passing it through your teeth; the diameter’s tiny, so you don’t down too much at once.

Health says: “Usually my teeth are reddish after drinking wine, but not with these. I wouldn’t use them in public, though!”

—Maria Ricapito, Contributing Beauty Editor

Wine Wipes(20 for $7; These pads lift that vino film off your mouth and chompers.

Health says: “I was surprised the residue came off in just one swipe.”

—Diana Cerqueira, Beauty Assistant

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Anti-Aging Secrets

23 Superfruits You Need Now!

Does Oil Pulling REALLY Whiten Your Teeth?

By Barbara Bronson GrayHealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 18, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Allison Bennett of Palm City, Fla., plans to swish daily. Sloshing coconut oil around her mouth for a quarter of an hour every day will make her teeth whiter, she believes.

Like Bennett, plenty of consumers are discovering an ancient practice called oil pulling, or oil swishing. Some people report the practice sweetens their breath; others say it treats gum disease, prevents tooth decay and even improves arthritis and asthma.

Oil pulling, which goes back 2,500 years, is based on Indian traditional medicine, or Ayurveda, said Marc Halpern, a chiropractor and president of the California College of Ayurveda, in Nevada City, Calif.

The practice is based on a core concept of Ayurveda: that oil is nourishing to body tissue, said Halpern. “In Ayurveda we oil all the tissues of the body, from head to toe, every day. Studies have shown there can be an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory action.”

Halpern swishes oil. “I try to do everything within the realm of Ayurveda to see if it’s of value,” he said.

But even Halpern admits that oil pulling may not produce the broad range of benefits some boast. “People have reported all kinds of wonderful results from doing it, but you can’t attribute every result to the practice,” he said.

Hard evidence of the benefits and risks is hard to come by.

Bennett decided to try swishing after applying coconut oil to her 2-year-old daughter’s skin to treat eczema. In reading about how the oil worked, she learned about pulling. So she recently ordered another bottle of coconut oil and tried it.

“It wasn’t bad,” said Bennett, who swished for 10 to 15 minutes. “My mouth seemed quite clean after and my teeth seemed whiter even after just one time. I plan to make this a part of my daily routine each morning.”

Do experts in Ayurveda think pulling really works as a teeth whitener? “It hasn’t been studied,” said Halpern.

As for any downside, Halpern said some people feel a little nauseous when they swish. For that he recommends using oil for just five minutes, not the 20 minutes some recommend, and using less oil if need be.

“Between a teaspoon and a tablespoon is fine. There is no exact amount of oil that must be put in your mouth,” he said.

While Halpern said he believes swishing oil is safe, he recommends that people work with a trained and experienced Ayurveda practitioner to get a personalized “prescription” for the type of oil that best fits their needs and physical make-up.

Lydia Hall, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association, said the association can’t comment on oil pulling because additional research is needed. And the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research isn’t doing any research on oil pulling, said its spokesman, Bob Kuska.

Some experts say almost anything you do for your mouth is better than neglecting it.

“Anyone who wants to pay attention to their oral hygiene, it’s a good thing,” said Dr. Joseph Banker, a cosmetic dentist in Westfield, N.J. “But are there other things that they could be doing? Probably.”

Many “old remedies” were developed when there was no toothpaste, mouthwash, floss or toothbrushes, Banker said. Nowadays, inexpensive and widely available tools make it a lot easier to take care of your teeth and gums, he added.

As for whether swishing can whiten teeth, Banker is skeptical. “I don’t think the oil has an intrinsic effect other than the removal of plaque. It’s hard to find a study that states that. Anything that swishes around for 20 minutes may have some effect, even water.”

Yet if done daily, oil pulling may remove some tooth stain, Banker said. Also, if the process improves gum health, they will be pinker, which can often make the teeth look whiter, he said.

Banker recommends that people who want brighter teeth simply use whitening strips. “They’re easy to place, and you can stop using them if your teeth get sensitive.”

But could swishing do harm? “No. It’s the ones who ignore their mouths that have problems,” said Banker.

More information

Learn more about oral health from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.