Old world wisdom or old wives tale? …… is there any good with rinsing your mouth with salt, baking soda water and coconut oil?

Normal Saline, Sodium Bicarbonate and Chlorhexidine rinses – Are they good for your teeth and gums?  

Very likely!  Do you remember your dentist asking you to rinse with salt water after your wisdom teeth extraction?  The irrigation of dental extractions with normal saline can prevent “dry sockets” and relieve the symptoms associated.  A dry socket is a complication that can occur after the extraction of a tooth/teeth.  The acute inflammation of the bone around the extracted tooth creates severe pain and the breakdown of the clot within the socket.  Food and bacteria may fill up this empty hole where your tooth used to be and can lead to infection.  One study found that 36.8% of patients that ended up with a dry socket did not follow oral hygiene instructions, which included using a warm salt mouth bath to irrigate the extraction sites.

Salt, baking soda water or chlorhexidine rinses have also been recommended for increasing oral cleanliness and reducing the risk of infection in the mouth or other oral diseases.   Normal saline and sodium bicarbonate are both bland rinses that have no known biological properties but Chlorhexidine actually has antimicrobial properties.  Even though, research has not been able to directly prove the effects of these rinses against other significant problems, like oral mucositis, they are often still recommended.  The Guidelines Panel of the Basic Oral Care Section for example recommend their use in patients undergoing cancer treatments as most patients found their improved oral hygiene and comfort with the use of these rinses.  Chlorhexidine mouth rinse is usually recommended for periodic use only in the prevention of oral mucositis, gingivitis or plaque control as its long term use may cause side effects.


Oil-pulling with coconut oil can treat cavities?

Plausible! Coconut oil has been shown to have numerous positive effects in health promotion and disease prevention and its products have been well respected in Indian folk medicine for thousands of years.  According to Ayurvedic medicine, documented in Sanskrit well back to 4000 years ago, the oil, milk, cream and water of the coconut have been used to treat hair loss, burns, heart problems as well as it being used as an electrolyte, antioxidant, antithrombotic, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and immunostimulant to name only a few benefits.  The process of oil-pulling for the mouth involves rinsing and swishing approximately one tablespoon of the oil around in your mouth, pulling, pushing and sucking it around your mouth and through your teeth and then spitting it out.  The microbes hiding in and amongst your teeth are “pulled out” and held within the solution.  Some state it has helped whiten their teeth, prevent bad breath and reduce inflamed gums.   While coconut oil rinse may help decrease the overall bacterial load in the mouth, it is difficult to say if  this method actually prevents oral diseases.   More research is needed to show if it is beneficial to oral health because good oral health does not mean a mouth without bacteria but a happy equilibrium between good and bad bacteria.   Sunflower and sesame oil have also been used although coconut oil is the preferred oil due to the fact that it contains lauric acid, which is known to have strong antimicrobial action. Before this new concept has a more concrete link with science, it is still beneficial if the placebo effect helps increase everyone’s awareness to oral health.

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Copyright 2014 The Children’s Oral Care Centre

10 things you need to know to protect your lips from the powerful sun this summer


What are UVA, UVB and SPF?

There are a few different things to know when talking about sun safety in order to make the most informed choices that are best for your skin and lips.  SPF, stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures how well a sunscreen will protect the skin from UVB rays.  UVB, Ultraviolet-B radiation, is the greatest contributor of the sun’s harmful rays.  It causes sunburns, damages the skin and can contribute to skin cancer by penetrating into the outer layer of the skin and inducing specific mutational changes.  These mutations can initiate and promote cellular changes that can lead to pre-cancer and cancer over time. UVA, Ultraviolet-A radiation, contributes to the risk that the sun’s rays create but are not the primary concern.

In order to understand how these terms are all related and what they have to do with one another here is an example.  If SPF 30 is applied, it will block 97% of UVB rays and if SPF 50 is applied it will block 98% of UVB rays.  Most individuals think that applying an SPF 75 or SPF 90 is giving them more protection than an SPF 30, however these do not offer significantly greater protection as you can see from the example SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays.

Now that we understand that the type of SPF does not relate to the strength of the sun protectant then what do the different SPF’s offer?  The SPF actually relates to the amount of time you are able to spend in the sun without burning.  Therefore if your skin usually burns after 20 minutes in the sun if you apply an SPF 30 sunscreen you would be able to stay in the sun without burning for approximately 300 minutes.  The sun protection factor is the number of times longer you can stay out in the sun without burning when it is applied.

What is in my sunscreen?

There are two types of sunscreens and they can be divided based on what their active ingredients are and whether they are organic or inorganic.  Table 1 shows the FDA accepted sunscreen agents, the concentration of active ingredients and the UVR spectrum that is blocked.

The inorganic agents listed act to reflect, scatter and physically lock the UV radiation from penetrating into your skin.  They are very effective against both UV-A and UV-B radiation however their use is often limited due to the fact that they leave an obvious white cream appearance on the skin.  As you can see in Table 1 the organic agents have variable absorptive spectra and therefore sunscreens often contain a mixture of specific agents in order to produce a broad spectrum product that is able to block UV-A and UV-B.  There is also evidence that combining the inorganic and organic agents creates improved protection from the sun by creating an all-encompassing product.  Keep this list of ingredients on hand when shopping for sunscreen so you know whether it will provide you with enough protection for you and your family from the suns beautiful but harmful rays.

Table 1. FDA Accepted Sunscreen Agents


Allowable Concentration

Spectrum Blocked (nm)

Inorganic Agents

Titanium dioxide



Zinc oxide



Organic Agents
















Menthyl anthranilate






Octyl methoxycinnamate



Octyl salicylate






Padimate O



Para aminobenzoic acid



Phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid






Trolamine salicylate




What are other ways for protecting your lips?

• Seeking shade and limiting sun exposure between the hours of 11:00am and 4:00pm when the sun is at its strongest.
• Wearing a hat and covering up.
• Using a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 but preferably higher.
• Dry lips before applying sunscreen and apply 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to soak in.
• Remember to re-apply sun screen after swimming or vigorous physical activity that is sure to make you sweat or if outside for  long periods of time.
• Be aware that clouds do not block UV radiation therefore have the same sun protection even in cloudy days especially when out on the water, sand, snow or near concrete as they can reflect the sun and increase the sun’s rays.
• When applying sunscreen to children or babies, be sure to follow the directions on the package especially if the child is less than 6 months old. Not all products have the same ingredients and if one creates a bad reaction try another product or consult a doctor.
• Beware of any medication which may make skin more sensitive to the sun and be sure to be extra cautious when enjoying time outdoors.
• Monitor any unusual spots on lips and skin that are new or look different than before. Any area or spot that changes shape or color, a sore that doesn’t heal, changes in sensation such as itchiness or pain should be checked by a dentist or doctor.

Remember, lip cancer develops over time so don’t forget your lips when it comes to keeping your skin protected from the blazing sun in the summer months!

Copyright 2014 The Children’s Oral Care Centre

Friends or Foes, why microbes are not so bad after all

Did you know that your entire body is crawling both inside and out with bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes?  This is the human microbiome as it is called, and these microorganisms make up more than 90% of all the cells in the body.  You are made of less human cells than you want to believe.
From birth through the first few years of life, there is a normal cycle of development that has allowed microorganisms and humans to evolve together.  The first exposure that children have to microorganisms is during the birthing process.  Once the membranes rupture and the baby passes through the mother’s birth canal they are exposed to bacteria.  Their skin becomes covered with it and they even swallow it.  The most common are lactobacillus, bacteria that eat lactose (the main component of milk), so the baby’s mouth is filled with lactobacilli.  Once they start feeding, the milk and lactobacilli enter the baby’s gut and begin the foundation of his microbiome in the digestive system.

Why do we care about this microbiome?

We have seen dramatic rises in numerous diseases in the last 50-70 years, including asthma, allergies, food allergies, wheat allergy, obesity and juvenile diabetes.  There are many theories and one of them links the more recent rises in diseases in modern history to the human microbiome.  Dr. Blaser, director of NYU’s Human Microbiome Program, supports the theory that the advances in modern medicine disrupts the intricate human microbiome, leading to the rise of many diseases.  Over time, the human population has evolved with the microorganisms to create a stable mutually beneficial environment for both the microorganisms and the human body.  Since the widespread use of antibiotics and advanced medical procedures may kill off good microorganisms in your body, our protection from these good microorganisms against other harmful microorganisms or conditions may be weakened.

One of the examples close to home for dentists is the oral cavity which is an ecological community of protective and harmful microorganisms sharing the same bodyspace.   We used to believe that only a few types of bacteria are responsible for causing cavities in the mouth.  It is now widely accepted that caries, periodontitis (gum diseases) are caused by group of organisms.   The proportion and interplay between the good and bad bugs in the mouth under different the host environment (eg. high carbohydrate diet) determines whether one’s mouth is healthy or not.

Since the use of the antibiotics is too harsh on the good bugs in our body, one of the ways individuals have come to cope with these changes within their body is the use of probiotics.  Supplementing certain good organisms to replenish the missing microbiome (which many of us may already be doing by eating yogurt!!)  appear to be helpful for the human body and could be a big breakthrough in future medical advances.

Next time you are sick, don’t just think about how terrible microorganisms are.  Also try to remember there are plenty of good bacteria in and amongst us that are helping our bodies function at its optimal level.   Be judicious when you walk by the hand sanitizer pump.  Not all germs are foes!



Copyright 2014 The Children’s Oral Care Centre