|Bruce Fife, N.D.
November 26, 2008
A new technique called oil pulling can keep your mind and body healthy
The headlines in the newspaper could have read “Man Dies of Toothache.” As unlikely as this may sound, it is true. Boyd (not his real name) was a healthy 54-year old. His only complaint was the sudden appearance of a toothache. The dentist identified the problem as an abscess-an infection near the base of the tooth. The tooth was salvageable, so it was not extracted, and the infection was scraped out of the gum tissue and drained.
That evening Boyd experienced shaking chills and fever. He took an aspirin and felt better the next day. Fourteen days later he developed a severe headache with involuntary twitching of the muscles on the left side of his face and neck. He was taken to the hospital. A CT scan revealed a mass in the frontal lobe of his brain, which was diagnosed as a brain abscess. He was given massive doses of antibiotics and underwent surgery to drain the infection.
Boyd seemed to improve immediately after the surgery. Six days later, however, he became noticeably disoriented and developed swelling on his head. A CT scan revealed the recurrence of the brain abscess. He was given more antibiotics and underwent a second surgery to drain the pus and remove infected tissue including part of his skull.
After surgery, he began to improve but two more times the infection came roaring back and he underwent two more surgeries and the complete removal of the frontal lobe of his brain. After the last surgery and in spite of massive doses of antibiotics, his condition deteriorated. After struggling for more than a month in the hospital, he died.
Samples taken from each of the surgeries revealed the infection was caused by three species of bacteria, the origin of which were traced back to his abscessed tooth. Bacteria from his infected gums spread to the bloodstream and localized in his brain. While secondary infections in the brain and other parts of the body can be quieted by antibiotics, bacteria in the mouth can continue to thrive. Every time Boyd received antibiotics the infection in his bran subsided, but was rekindled by a continual stream of bacteria from his infected tooth.
Cause of death was listed as a brain abscess, but the real culprit was the infected tooth. Secondary infections as severe as Boyd’s are not common, but are not rare either. Between 1996 and 2001, physicians at San Francisco General Hospital, a large public facility, treated 157 patients with runaway tooth infections that had eaten into their jaws, faces, and necks. This was in just one hospital. Dental infections are sending people to hospitals all over the country. Often the connection to oral health isn’t even recognized.
Our mouths are home to some 10 billion bacteria, not to mention millions of viruses, fungi, and protozoa. We have over 600 different species of bacteria living in our mouths. Some are relatively benign, while others cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other infections.
Because of the close proximity of the mouth to the brain, oral bacteria can have a pronounced effect on neurological function and mental health. Whenever there is an injury, infection, or inflammation in gum tissue, bacteria can seep into the bloodstream. Major dental infections, such as a tooth abscess, can cause massive amounts of bacteria to enter the bloodstream leading to a brain abscess or some other secondary infection elsewhere in the body.
Minor oral infections, that often go unnoticed and may remain active for years, can also affect our brains. These infections slowly release bacteria into the bloodstream. If the immune system is working properly, no secondary infection occurs. However, the continual stream of bacteria into surrounding tissues causes chronic inflammation. Near the jaw it causes bone to disintegrate, eventually leading to bone and tooth loss. Chronic inflammation in nerve and brain tissue can lead to mental degeneration.
There may be no symptoms immediately noticeable, but over time as inflammation damages nerve tissue, mental function declines. Several studies have identified correlations between neurological degeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis with poor dental health. For instance, in one study 144 participants between the ages of 75 and 98 were observed over a period of several years. Their dental as well as mental health was monitored. Autopsies of 118 participants who died during the study were also available. Researchers found that the greater the number of teeth missing, due to tooth decay and gum disease, the higher the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.1
One in ten persons over the age of 65 and as many as half the population aged 85 and over have Alzheimer’s disease. Poor dental health is now recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. So taking care of your teeth can also help you take care of your mind.
Gum disease and tooth decay are among the most prevalent microbial diseases of mankind. According to a study in the British medical journal the Lancet, gum disease affects up to 90 percent of the population.2 Nine in ten Americans have some level of tooth decay. Moderate gum disease is found in 40 percent of children over the age of 12 years. As we age dental health declines and teeth are lost. Poor dental health has become epidemic in our society. One in 20 middle-aged adults have lost all of their teeth. By the time you are 60 years of age your changes of having lost all of your teeth are one in four. Those are pretty grim statistics.
Teeth are meant to last a lifetime, and they will if you take care of them. As Dr. Weston A. Price showed in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, people can retain a full set of healthy teeth and remain mentally alert even into old age.
Having a bright white smile and no obvious problems is no guarantee that you are free of infection. Regardless of how clean your mouth appears, you could have an infection right now and may not be aware it.
Dr. Price showed us that our diet is the most influential factor in determining dental health. Refined carbohydrates, like sugar and refined grains, feed bacteria that cause the most damage to teeth and gums. Eating a diet composed of whole, minimally processed foods will help prevent oral disease and preserve teeth.
We all have harmful bacteria growing in our mouths. A healthy diet can reduce the amount of bad bacteria but if an active infection is present, that may not be enough. How do you know if you have an infection? Some of the signs are teeth which are sensitive to cold or hot foods, pain, chronic bad breath, bleeding gums, dark pink or red gums (indicates inflammation), receding gums, root canals, cavities, visible plaque or tarter deposits on teeth, and frequent canker sores or herpes outbreaks (cold sores). The presence of multiple filled or missing teeth also indicates a history of poor dental health and the likelihood of an active infection.
If tooth decay and gum disease are actively present, as is the case with most people, simply cutting down on refined carbohydrates and eating better will not stop the disease. More brushing, flossing, or mouthwash will not stop it. Antibiotics will not stop it.
What will stop it is a technique called oil pulling. Oil pulling is a modified version of oil gargling, which originated from Ayurvedic medicine and dates back thousands of years.
The process of oil pulling is very simple. You put a spoonful of vegetable oil into your mouth and swish it around for a period of 15 to 20 minutes. Various oils have been used for oil gargling but for oil pulling, coconut oil works best. The coconut oil is “worked” in the mouth by pushing, pulling, and sucking it through the teeth. As you work the oil, it sucks up bacteria, toxins, pus, and mucous. It acts much like the motor oil you put in your car engine. The motor oil picks up dirt and grime. When you drain the oil, it pulls out the dirt and grime with it, leaving the engine relatively clean. Consequently, the engine runs smoother and lasts longer. Likewise, when we expel harmful substances from our mouths, our teeth and gums work better and last longer.
When you are finished pulling the oil, don’t swallow it! It’s full of bacteria and toxins. Spit it into the trash. I don’t recommend discarding it in the sink or down the toilet because over time the oil may build up and clog the pipes. After spiting, rinse your mouth with water.
Oil pulling is best done first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. After eating, bush your teeth as you normally would. Oil pulling can be done one to three times a day, on an empty stomach. Just before meals are good times.
A study published in the Journal of Oral Health and Community Dentistry demonstrates the effectiveness of oil pulling compared to other forms of oral hygiene.3
The subjects in the study had mild to moderate gum disease and plaque accumulation, typical of the population as a whole. They were instructed to continue their normal home oral hygiene practices, along with oil pulling. Oil pulling was performed once each morning for a period of 45 days. Plaque levels and the severity of gum disease were assessed periodically during the study. The subjects were instructed to suck and pull the oil through their teeth for 8-10 minutes daily.
At the end of the 45 days plaque formation was significantly reduced, with most of the reduction coming during the later half of the study, indicating that the longer you do the treatment the better the results. Gingivitis (i.e. gum disease) was also significantly reduced in all subjects, decreasing by more than 50 percent. The researchers rated the changes as “highly” significant.
Mouthwashes have shown to reduce plaque by 20-26 percent and gingivitis by about 13 percent. Tooth brushing reduces plaque by 11-27 percent and gingivitis by 8-23 percent.4 Oil pulling beats them both. Data from this study shows that oil pulling reduced plaque by 18-30 percent and gingivitis by an amazing 52-60 percent. The reduction in plaque using oil pulling is only slightly better than antiseptic mouthwashes and brushing, but reduction in gingivitis is two to seven times better. So, oil pulling significantly out performs brushing and mouthwash as a means of oral cleansing. If the subjects had oil pulled for 15-20 minutes daily, as is normally recommended, and done it over a longer period of time, the results would have undoubtedly been even better.
Oil pulling isn’t only good at preventing oral infections, but can actively fight them as well. The oil pulls the infection (bacteria, toxins, and pus) out of the tissues allowing the body to heal itself. Inflammation is quieted, gums stop bleeding, loose teeth tighten, and pain and sensitivity vanish. Teeth become whiter and gums become pinker and healthier looking.
For some people, the results from oil pulling are almost immediate. While for others, the battle lasts longer. The reason for this is due not only to the amount of bacteria in the mouth but to the type as well. Some people have a larger number of the more troublesome microbes, including viruses and fungi. Our diet plays a very important role in determining the microbial populations growing in our mouths. Sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed vegetable oils contribute to an imbalance in our oral flora.
The simple oil pulling procedure described here is a good start, but for optimal oral health you also need a good diet, one rich in whole foods. The details of the oil pulling process, along with dietary recommendations, aids for healing chronic infections, and a procedure for detoxing heavy metals for those who have amalgam (mercury) fillings or root canals, are outlined in the book Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body through Oral Cleansing.
If you follow the suggestions as described above and in this book, when you reach the age of 75, or 85, or even 105 your mind will be clear and active and you will continue to enjoy eating the foods you love, using all of the teeth you currently have. Oil pulling is simple and inexpensive and, when combined with a good diet, is one of your best guarantees against mental decline as you grow older.
Bruce Fife, CN, ND is a certified nutritionist and naturopathic physician. He is the author of over 20 books including Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body through Oral Cleansing. He serves as the director of The Coconut Research Center, www.coconutresearchcenter.org.
Posted in Alzheimers/Dementia, Candida/Fungus/Yeast, Coconut Oil, Dental Issues, Diet, Inflammation, Root Canals, Senior Health by admin