Alternative Medicine

5
Putting Aspirin on Toothache
©Gos Photo Design/Shutterstock.com

You can’t cure a toothache by putting an aspirin on it.  In fact, if you hold aspirin against a tooth long enough, it can damage your gums and other soft tissues inside of your mouth.

Aspirin Can't Cure a ToothacheAspirin is able to damage the tissues in your mouth because it is an acid – acetylsalicylic acid to be exact.   Like most acids, it will damage your bodily tissues if you give it enough time.  If you’ve ever used an acidic bathroom cleaner without gloves on, you probably discovered that acids can burn your skin.

What an Aspirin Burn Looks Like

An aspirin burn turns your gums and cheek tissue to a charred-white color.  Aspirin burns can also be quite painful.  It is literally a burn inside of your mouth!

If you’re curious to see what an aspirin burn looks like, here’s a picture in an oral pathology book on Google Books and here’s another picture of an aspirin burn.

Don’t Put Aspirin Directly On a Toothache

If you need pain relief from your toothache, it is best to go to your dentist.  If you can remove the cause of your toothache, you can become pain-free and most likely keep your teeth and gums in a healthy state.

One of the most interesting classes I’ve taken in dental school was called Oral Pathology.  The book we used, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology had an interesting quote in it regarding dental home remedies such as placing aspirin on a toothache:

Patients often can be their own worst enemies.  The array of chemicals that have been placed within the mouth in an attempt to resolve oral problems is amazing.  Aspirin, sodium perborate, hydrogen peroxide, gasoline, turpentine, rubbing alcohol, and battery acid are just a few of the more interesting examples.

It’s just not a good idea to apply aspirin to a tooth that hurts.  Even just chewing aspirin has been shown to hurt the teeth, you can read more about that here.

Swallow Aspirin, Don’t Apply It Topically

If you can’t make it to a dentist and you need some relief from your toothache then you can swallow some aspirin or your painkiller of choice.

Remember that this route will only provide temporary relief and it will not solve the underlying cause of the toothache (most likely, the bacteria that live in your mouth.)

Conclusion

Have you ever used an aspirin tablet to relieve a toothache?  If you have any questions or comments about this article or toothaches in general, please feel free to leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

4
Oil Pulling for Teeth
©Sebastian Duda/Shutterstock.com

Oil pulling therapy is an ancient medicinal technique that is used to improve oral health.

Oil Pulling therapy involves putting a tablespoon of vegetable oil (usually sunflower or sesame seed oil) into your mouth and swishing it around like mouthwash for an extended period of time.  It is recommended to do this on an empty stomach at the beginning of the day.  After you’ve rinsed the oil through every little crevice in your mouth which takes about 10-20 minutes you spit the oil out.  According to the remedy, the oil is supposed to remove the toxic bacteria in your mouth.  You can find more information on oil pulling from this website.

Vegetable Oil Used for Oil PullingOil pulling therapy has been used for many years as an Indian natural remedy to prevent teeth decay, bleeding gums, bad breath, dry mouth, dry throat, and chapped lips.  It was also used because it was believed to strengthen the teeth, gums, and jaws.  This remedy had been passed on and used because the Indians believed it worked, not because of scientific evidence.

However, in the last decade there have been some studies published that address the issue of whether or not oil pulling is effective.  I found the results rather surprising.  Here’s an easy-to-read summary of the four studies that I was able to find that discussed oil pulling and oral health.

Study #1: 20 Adolescent Boys

This study aimed to find out if oil pulling could reduce the amount of streptococcus mutans (one of the major bad bacteria in plaque) in people’s saliva.

They took 20 boys and divided them into two groups.  One group rinsed their mouths with chlorhexidine (a prescription antiseptic mouthwash marketed under the name of Peridex in the U.S.) and the other group rinsed their mouth with sesame oil for 10 minutes every morning.

The researchers collected plaque and saliva samples from both groups four times during the study.  Both groups showed a significant decrease in the levels of bacteria in their mouth.  Using either oil or chlorhexidine along with brushing was much better than brushing alone.  Here’s what the researchers had to say:

In this study the chlorhexidine group showed a greater statistically significant reduction of S. mutans count in plaque and saliva at different time periods than the oil pulling group. However, sesame oil has certain advantages over chlorhexidine: it does not stain, it has no lingering aftertaste, and causes no allergy. Sesame oil is 5-6 times more cost-effective than chlorhexidine and is, moreover, readily available in the household. There are no disadvantages in oil pulling therapy except for the extended duration of the procedure compared with chlorhexidine. Though oil pulling therapy cannot be recommended for use as a treatment adjunct as of now, it can be used as a preventive home therapy to maintain oral hygiene.

Study #2:  10 People Do Oil Pulling

This study had two objectives: to find out if oil pulling could reduce plaque & gingivitis and to find out if oil pulling was safe for the mouth.

10 people performed oil pulling in addition to their normal oral hygiene routine.  They used refined sunflower oil.  The researchers measured their plaque and gingival scores periodically throughout the 45-day duration of the study.

This study found that oil pulling did significantly reduce plaque and gingivitis.  In the words of the researchers:

In a study by Tritton CB and Armitage GC(3) tooth brushing has reduced plaque scores by  11-27% and gingivitis by 8-23%. By oil pulling, in the present study plaque scores have reduced by 18-30% and gingivitis has reduced by 52-60%. Hence reduction in plaque is comparable to previous studies, whereas reduction in gingivitis has been far superior. Being an indigenous procedure of Ayurveda this has a wide scope if properly utilized.

I don’t think this study is as accurate as the first one because there was no control group.  They just took 10 people and started the study.  Those 10 people probably started taking much better care of their teeth since they knew that researchers would be measuring plaque and gum inflammation.  That fact alone could have biased the study.

Study #3: 10 Other People Do Oil Pulling

This study simply had 10 people do oil pulling using sesame oil for a period of 40 days.  Their oral bacteria was measured before and after.  The bacteria in the subjects’ mouths decreased an average of 20%.

Study #4: 20 Adolescent Boys with Gingivitis

This study took 20 boys with Gingivitis and had one group use oil pulling with sesame oil and the other group use chlorhexidine, much like the first study I mentioned.

Once again, both groups showed an increase in oral health following through with their regimens.  The researchers concluded that:

1. A statistically significant reduction in the plaque index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
2. A statistically significant reduction in the modified gingival index score was seen in both the oil pulling and chlorhexidine groups.
3. A considerable reduction in the total colony count of the microorganisms was seen in the plaque sample in both groups. Though the reduction was more in the oil pulling group, there was no statistically significant difference between the groups.

Possible Harmful Effects of Oil Pulling

Although studies have indicated that oil pulling is wonderful, there still hasn’t been enough scientific studies to prove that it should be prescribed.

Last December, in a letter to the editor of the British Dental Journal, a dentist reported that he was treating a patient with gingitis and bleeding gums.  This patient had been practicing oil pulling for a few months and noticed that her condition had worsened.  Upon stopping oil pulling for three weeks, the dentist noticed that her gingivitis was reduced.  The patient was subsequently treated using traditional methods and her gums returned to health.

This dentist believed that she was retaining oil particles in her gum tissues and that this was causing her gingivitis.

It is important to keep in mind that none of the studies reported any harmful effects, and it is quite possible that this woman’s gingivitis was due to something other than the oil pulling and it was just a coincidence that her gingivitis subsided when she quit practicing oil pulling.

Conclusion

It is still too early to tell scientifically if oil pulling should be used.  In developing countries, such as India, it may be a great option since it is cheap and readily available.

Oil pulling has been around for many years as a folk remedy and seems to have withstood the test of time.  The four studies that have been done have also shown its effectiveness.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap way to keep your mouth healthy, you might want to try oil pulling.  If you do, let us know how it goes in the comments.