Oil-Pulling for Oral Health


imageA lot has been written recently about a ‘new’ way to keep our teeth and gums healthy. ‘Oil-pulling’ claims to be a safe, effective alternative to traditional toothpaste and mouthwash.

Western society is becoming more health-conscious. We are now, more than ever, beginning to read the labels of the foods and drinks we consume. People are beginning to realise that a lot of the so-called healthy foods contain harmful chemicals. A trend is beginning: to make smarter decisions about what we eat, drink, put on our body, and keep in our home.

And on the back of this trend, ‘Oil-pulling’ has recently attracted a lot of publicity.

So what is oil-pulling?

The phrase “oil-pulling” comes from the process of the oil being “worked” in the mouth by pulling, pushing, and sucking it through the teeth. But it’s not a new therapy at all. It has its origins in Ayurvedic medicine.

In fact, the Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita — which is over 2000 years old — describes oil-pulling as a way to improve oral health and prevent bad breath.

The procedure involves rinsing about one tablespoon of oil around in your mouth. As the oil hits your teeth and gums, bacteria are picked up as though they are being drawn to a powerful magnet.

The longer you push and pull the oil through your mouth, the more bacteria are pulled free. Generally, about 10 minutes is enough, at which point the oil turns a milky white.

The oils used

Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell which is covered with a lipid (fatty) membrane. When these cells come into contact with oil they stick to each other.

Different oils have been suggested such as sesame and sunflower oil, but these oils both have omega 6 fats that are pro-inflammatory, and most of us have too much of these in our diet as it is. Coconut oil is preferred because 50% of the fat in coconut oil is made up of Lauric acid. Lauric acid is very well known for its antimicrobial actions. It inhibits Strep mutans that are the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay.

The mouth is the gateway to the body
There is no question that oil-pulling reduces the bacterial load in the mouth. When you consider the fact that a clean mouth may have between 1,000 and 100,000 bacteria on each tooth, and those that do not have a clean mouth may have between 100 million and a billion bacteria on each tooth, surely oil-pulling can’t hurt?

So how can oil pulling help us?

Bad breath (halitosis)
About 85% of bad breath comes from the mouth. The rest comes from the gastrointestinal tract.
Common factors that cause bad breath include gum disease, tooth disease, and a tongue coating. Some studies have indicated that oil-pulling is as effective as many mouthwashes in fighting bad breath.
Reducing plaque and gingivitis
Gingivitis is caused by inflammation of the gums. One study showed that oil-pulling is as effective as over-the-counter mouthwashes in helping with plaque-induced gingivitis.

Whiter teeth
While lots of people claim that oil-pulling whitens teeth, there isn’t any published research on this. It’s only anecdotal.

Sjogren’s syndrome
A study in Canada found that oil-pulling had some benefits for those who have Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that damages salivary glands and causes dry mouth*.

Pulling & eliminating toxins from the blood / body
Some people have proposed that oil-pulling will pull impurities from the blood. However, our gums don’t seem to allow this kind of exit from the bloodstream into the mouth. So any oil in our mouths won’t come into contact with blood, nor will it “extract” anything from it.

Are there any dangers?

Oil-pulling is pretty safe in general. But here are a couple of small cautions:
We are advised to swish the oil for about 10 minutes. Because of this, there’s a very small risk of accidentally inhaling the oil and getting lipid pneumonia (i.e. fluid buildup and potential infection).

However, so far, all the research on oil-pulling hasn’t been exactly convincing. Most studies looking at oil-pulling are small, short, or incomplete. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless. It just means that the science isn’t there yet.

My advice is that oil-pulling could be beneficial to our mouths. But it does not mean giving up on brushing and flossing. Oil-pulling does not reverse the effects of tooth decay.
But how will you know if it’s actually made a difference?

Try a before-and-after test. The next time you’re coming in, let us know if you’re considering oil-pulling. We (your dentist and hygienist) can then make a series of checks, record them and review on your next appointment.

We can also help to see if oil-pulling is appropriate for you. If you have sensitive teeth or receding gums, it might be better for you to oil-pull only occasionally rather than daily.

The routine

First thing in the morning, before eating or brushing your teeth:
1. Take about a tablespoon of edible oil (such as sesame, coconut, or sunflower oil).
2. Put it in your mouth without swallowing.
3. Swish it around for 5-10 minutes.
4. At the end of the 5-10 minutes, spit it out.
5. Rinse your mouth completely with warm water.
6. Brush and floss your teeth as normal.

Good Luck.





Ride of a lifetime in aid of The British Heart Foundation



Danielle Tisdall one of our Trainee Nurses is about to embark on the ride of a lifetime…

Two years ago I completed the 56 mile London to Southend bike ride to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Looking back it was great fun, a fantastic atmosphere and a great sense of achievement, once completed. At the time however, I wondered what the hell I’d signed myself up for!
If you know me, you’ll know that cycling is not my friend. I tend to go at a snail’s pace, the gears baffle me, I wouldn’t have a clue what to do if I got a puncture, and I have been known to cycle into the back of someone , my Dad actually, it’s not ideal.
With this in consideration, I must be mad, as on the 15th June I will be dusting off my bike yet again and squeezing into some rather attractive padded cycling shorts, in preparation for the 60 mile London to Brighton Bike ride, again for the British Heat Foundation.
In all honesty, I haven’t practised that much other than a couple of 20-30mile leisurely rides, where I have been forced to stop off for a big pub lunch at a halfway point, and then meander on my way like a sack of spuds.
I will find this event tough! So I have set up a Just Giving page to make this challenge worthwhile. If you wish to donate the link is:


I will let you know how I get on………

Building Strong Relationships

imageDalmaira, or Maira for short, is 8 years old. And she’s in pain. From a horribly decayed lower first molar. She’s sat in our chair in our ‘MASH’ tent in El Jebba on a very warm Tuesday morning. I say our chair because I’m working with Amy, a dental therapist, whom I first met and teamed with last year.


The tooth needs to come out. But did I mention that it’s horribly decayed?

Anyway, Amy and I have developed an almost instinctive working relationship. One where we don’t need to prep each other about what to do, or say. We use our very limited pidgeon Arabic. Mix it with some French, Spanish, English and masses of body language, and we can communicate. So that ultimately, a language barrier isn’t a barrier.

We go through breathing techniques with every child we see. We try to make them laugh. And most of the time, we do.


Maira was brilliant. Not once did she flinch let alone get upset. But I couldn’t get her tooth out. It kept crumbling. Again and again. And I was struggling.

Despite Amy’s help, what remained of the tooth was becoming less and less visible. Access was becoming more difficult and even though it was loosening, it wasn’t coming out.


As our team were stopping for lunch, Maira was the only child still being treated. Richard Howarth, one of my dental muckers, came over to help. So did Chris Branfield. Another dentist friend who I met when I came out on my first Dental Maverick trip in 2010.

They both offered advice as to the best instruments to use, as well as the technique. But I wasn’t succeeding. Laura, a nurse had come to help as well by now. And with her and Amy’s help, I drilled the roots to separate them.

And Maira? Well, she was still perfectly ok. Despite the fact that she’d now been in the chair for about 45 minutes.


Eventually, both Richard and Chris suggested that I take a break. I refused. I was tired, but this had become a matter of pride. After another failed attempt, I took stock. I was acting selfishly. Letting my personal pride get in the way of Maira’s welfare. So I asked Chris to take over. He did without hesitation and, shortly after he’d managed to extract the tooth.

When Maira left our ‘MASH’ tent, she was met with a chorus of applause from the rest of our team. And she deserved it. I stayed behind. Feeling a mixture of shame and embarrassment. And as for having my photo taken with her, no chance! Anyway, I did. But only after others’ insistence.


And I wonder why I do this.


But, every year I see at least one child who manages to break through my testosterone impregnated guard. A child who demonstrates a strength of mind and composure that is so wildly unbecoming of their age that it fills me with awe.

Last year, it was Ayesha. This year, Maira. And even though my memory is failing, I’ll never forget them.


This was my third visit with the Dental Mavericks. The ‘WHAT’ we do and the ‘HOW’ we do it are self explanatory. But, if you were to ask any of us ‘WHY’ we do it, I suspect that you’d get several different answers:



‘Helping rid the children of dental pain’,

‘Leaving a worthwhile legacy’,

‘Doing good for others’.


These are just some examples and they’re all equally worthy. In fact, I often use them myself.


But, there is another ‘WHY’. One that I experienced in abundance this last week. And that is ‘Building Strong Relationships’. I consider many of our team to be firm friends. Even the newer Mavericks, as well some of our Moroccan hosts. And that’s priceless.

According to recent research, having close friends you can count on has massive benefits for your physical and mental health. A strong social network can be critical to helping you through the stress of tough times.


I believe that. Last week proved it to me.

Later that day, I thanked Richard and Chris. Not just for helping me but for not pulling rank. I knew that they both wanted me to take a break. Let someone else try. But they weren’t insistent. Just supportive. And the reason for that is because we know each other well. We’ve become friends.


We’ve built strong relationships.

Deliver ‘WOW’!

When we were asked to write about our experiences of our Core Values, I immediately was hoping that Jas would be thinking/writing about the importance of ‘Embracing Change’, because then one day, maybe he will let me change his radio station….
I initially thought that I could write about ‘Spreading laughter’. In the short time being at High Street Dental practice I’ve spent many days in fits of giggles. I’ve witnessed Maggie sit on a non-existent chair at Reception, and grip onto the desk for dear life. I’ve witnessed Penny fall flat on her face running up the stairs with a box of instruments, and then try to pretend nothing had happened. I’ve referred to a tooth surface as a part of the female anatomy by mistake, and I’ve been involved in some of the craziest, funniest stories/conversations I have ever heard. All of the above has had me in stitches, and all because of being with a team that has a brilliant sense of humour!
I have however settled on writing a piece on the ‘Wow Factor’, and the reasons why I believe The High Street Dental Practice has it.
I thought ‘Wow’ when I very first went to the Practice to enquire about the Dental Nurse position I had seen advertised. The first thing that struck me was how friendly and cheerful the receptionist (Iva) was, and what a nice feel the Practice had to it- not the usual overly-formal, clinical, scary environment I usually associate with Dental Practices!
At my interview, I was immediately put at ease by Lisa and Maggie- they were absolutely bonkers and absolutely lovely! I learnt a bit about the practice and the team, and I couldn’t have been more impressed. The fact that the majority of the team had been at the Practice for years and years (some before I was born!) I thought could only be a good thing. I was delighted to be called back for a second interview- at a bar!!! Wow!! WITH WINE!! DOUBLE WOW!!!
Since working at The High Street Dental Practice there has not been a week gone by where I haven’t thought ‘Wow’ at some point. Just today I learnt that some of our patients not only have been with us for years and years, but they travel from as far away Kent, Cornwall and even France to get to us! That’s pretty special! It’s also lovely to see the rapport that the practice has with its patients-many come in and chat with us like they would with their closest friends, and even the most nervous of patients come out either smiling or laughing!
It also amazes me the amount of charity work that the practice gets involved in, for example, The Children from Chernobyl as seen in the local newspaper, and Jas’s Annual trips to help the children of Morocco. Not to mention all the personal fundraising that goes on outside of the Practice by, for example, Jules (Tough Mudder) and Eva, who plans to climb Kilimanjaro for the Young Epilepsy Charity next year. Wow.
I have been overwhelmed with the amount of support I have had from every single person in the team since starting in August. Always willing to teach, help and all went the extra mile in making me feel welcome.
Overall….that’s a lot of Wow-age!! And I’m pretty proud that I work for The High Street Dental Practice, that delivers this so well. Dani.

Spreading Smiles

Earlier today, Paige, my number one child came up to me and asked “Dad, can we talk?”
Putting my book down, I asked how much this talk would cost me.
“It’s not about money”. She replied. And then she smiled.

Did you know that children smile on average about 400 times a day? I didn’t. And did you know that adults only smile about twenty times a day? I didn’t know that either but I do know that they don’t all work for me.

By the way, I’m not talking about a fake smile. The one that just involves the lips. I’m talking about the one which includes our eyes and raising our cheeks. The real smiles. People can tell the difference.

Paige’s was the real type. Lips, cheeks, eyes. Everything. She told me she has a new boyfriend. His name is Sven, he’s German and he’s asked her to visit him in Berlin. So Paige, still smiling and her head leaning ever so slightly to one side, was asking my permission for her to go.

In his Ted talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling,” Ron Gutman talks about the positive effects of smiling. Reducing the number of stress-related hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. Reducing blood pressure. And increasing the number of hormones that improve our moods.

Apparently, one really good smile can give us a feel-good factor equivalent to 2,000 chocolate bars! Substitute your own favourites here: Running, especially at the practice, for Jules, dancing for Debbie, anything sweet for Iva, and alcohol for Lisa. Sausage rolls for Nikoletta, sex for Maggie, and more alcohol for Lisa. Debbie’s cakes for everyone -I’ve heard that they’re delicious but I’ve never been quick enough to get any- and diet coke for Alex. Answering emails for Penny, public speaking for Andrea, cheesecake for Sue and any food for Amy. Wearing spotty undies for Kate, more sex for Maggie, camping for Dani and HTM0105 for me.

“So, what does this German boyfriend of yours look like?” I asked. But only after I’d asked the usual dad-type security questions.
“He’s blonde with blue eyes.”
“It’s gonna be interesting when he meets me then.” I half joked.
She laughed. “No, he’s not like that.”

In Richard Wiseman’s book ‘Quirkology’, researchers looked at photographs of women in a college yearbook when they were in their early twenties. Nearly all were smiling. But when they looked carefully, they noticed that about half of the photographs showed a false smile and half a genuine smile. They discovered something. Those with the real smiles were much more likely to be married, to stay married, to be happier, and to enjoy better health throughout their lives.

According to social anthropologists, smiling makes us appear less dominant and more approachable.

You get the idea. Basically, a genuine smile is pretty good for us. So why don’t we (notice I put we) do it more often?

Back to today. Anyway, I agreed to Paige visiting Sven. I know that Denise would have already said yes. So I know that I had to say yes. But I played my part well. It’s a game and it makes me feel important. And any of you girls with children probably do the same with your other halves.

“Oh, thanks dad.” She said. Cue even bigger smile.

My work was done. As head of the family, I had performed my role. And that is to pretend to be head of the family.

My point here is that smiling can be used as an act of persuasion. For someone to like us, trust us, have faith in us and even to get permission to go to Germany to stay with some random person that I’ve never met.

But it has to be a genuine smile!

Smiling is contagious. As an expert on HTM0105 I know that it’s not yet been banned.

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to underusing it. But I promise to start from tomorrow. Just forgive me if I look silly.

Will you join me?

“Every smile makes you a day younger”
Chinese Proverb


Delivering WOW!

Many, many years ago, when the Earth was flat and I was an associate, I remember hearing the following adage:
‘If you upset one customer, they’ll tell 10 people. And if you please one customer, they’ll tell 2 people’.

In other words, people are far more likely to talk about you if you upset rather than please them.

As a newly qualified dentist, the last thing I wanted was bad press. So I used to treat my patients with the simple mindset of not upsetting them. It was my compass and it worked.

These days of social media, one unhappy customer could easily spread their message to many, many hundreds. So, keeping this mindset would seem to be the best thing to do wouldn’t it?

The answer is yes. That is, so long as we’re happy staying below the radar. Not really being noticed and not really being talked about.

In other words, the safety of anonymity.

But, just a few years ago, I learnt a really valuable lesson:

There is no safety in anonymity.

In this ever more competitive market place, we do need to be noticed. And we do need to be talked about. For the right reasons, obviously! In the words of Seth Godin, we need to be remarkable. We should aim to be the Purple Cow (also Seth Godin). The one that stands out.

If we’re proud of WHAT we do and HOW we do it: and I know you all are. And if we really do believe in our WHY, then we should stand out in peoples’ radars.

A bright red flashing dot! A Purple Cow!

And how do we do this?

By Delivering WOW.

Firstly, what is WOW? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means ‘To impress and excite greatly’. That’ll do for me.

I feel it every time I walk into an Apple store. It happens every time I watch Roger Federer. Win or…….come second. For certain companies and individuals, it’s part of their brand.

And I’d like it to be part of ours too.

So how do we deliver WOW? The simple answer is to do something above and beyond a person’s expectations. I’m not talking about ‘under-promising and over-delivering’. That’s just dishonest, in my opinion. I’m talking about ‘Promising and Over-Delivering’.

I can think of lots of lots of examples where you all do this already. Promising pain-free dentistry for one. During as well as after. Phoning our members after they’ve had major treatment is another. Gifts. Discounts. Charitable donations. Charitable activities like Debbie’s triathlon, Jules’s Tough Mudder (nutter), Iva’s forthcoming Kilimanjaro. And lots more.

But I confess that I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t have any. You all know that. But together, we do.

So I’d be really grateful if you could help me by replying with any suggestions of your own so that we can start putting them into practice. Regularly.

Let’s not be anonymous. Let’s not stay below the radar.

Let’s Deliver WOW.