My name is Kyle Hornby and I am a Family Dentist in Kitchener-Waterloo, ON. Every week, I publish a few articles to help raise the bar on oral health info available to the general public. I believe that if people know more, they can achieve better health and spend less time and money on treatment. For many people, they feel that their best Dental care will come from a Family Dentist with a Holistic approach to Dentistry. So today, I'd like to discuss Holistic Dentistry so that you can better understand this growing movement in Dentistry.

What is Holistic Dentistry?

The term holistic in a medical sense describes care that is:

characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

The more general definition of the word focuses on the proper understanding of a given thing in its entirety. Holistic refers to an understanding of how interconnections between smaller components interact to produce a given thing or living being. Taking a holistic approach to Dentistry means focusing on the whole patient. If they develop a cavity, the holistic Dentist tries to learn about the patients diet, their saliva flow, how they brush their teeth and for how long. In short, the holistic practitioner is a detective.

If the holistic Dentist can figure out what imbalance led to tooth decay, they talk to their patient about how to prevent future instances of oral disease. A holistic Dentist is always working toward a solution or a preventive approach. Simply repairing a cavity is only a small part of what they do.

A holistic dentist may also focus on materials used in dental treatment. They may advocate against the use of fluoride or metal fillings. They will often try to take the most natural approach to treatment that is possible.

Why is a Holistic approach important?

I've written before that there was an unfortunate "blind spot" in medical and dental fields for a long-time. This "blind spot" represented a lack of respect for how oral health affects systemic health and vice versa. I think that a major reason for this shortcoming in medical and dental care arose because we have separate providers for oral healthcare and systemic healthcare, respectively. Dentists probably didn't pay enough attention to how a patient's overall medical condition was affecting their oral health. At the same time, Physicians didn't often look inside their patients' mouths to look for signs of inflammation, gum disease, and other factors that would have had a negative effect on overall health.

And, to be honest, Doctors and Dentists should have probably talked more.

Now, as the holistic, "functional" or "wellness" model gains momentum, you're more likely to have a Dentist that focuses on the things you eat, your quality of sleep, your systemic health and other factors that could explain what's going on in your mouth. The holistic Dentist has a philosophy that is better suited to finding solutions when problems arise.

Is holistic Dentistry more expensive?

Probably not. Most Dentists determine costs using the Ontario Dental Association (ODA) Fee Guide. If you live in another province, they'll follow the applicable fee guide. This means that their is a standard or general reference document for dental fees. So, generally, a holistic Dentist's services will cost pretty much the same amount as would be charged by a non-holistic Dentist.

Now, if your Holistic Family Dentist recommends additional treatments, diagnostic tests, or supplements that your dental insurance does not cover then, yes, you'll pay more.

The key is to always request that a pre-determination be sent to your insurance company so you can understand what they'll cover and what they won't. You may decide that any additional treatments, tests or supplements are worth the extra cost and decide to pay for them yourself. But, overall, awareness of fees is key!

In some ways, holistic Dentistry may save you money. Generally, a holistic practitioner will try to modify or arrest a disease process first before recommending treatment or intervention. They may try to re-mineralize small cavities to stop them in their tracks over the traditional "drill and fill" approach. If you have somebody caring for you that's more conservative and less intervention-driven, you're likely to save money in the long run.

Is Holistic Dentistry covered by my insurance?

Yes and No. If you see a Holistic Dentist and they provide a routine dental service such as dental cleaning, dental fillings, dental crowns or wisdom tooth extraction, your insurance plan provider will have the same rules for coverage as would be the case if you saw a non-holistic Dentist. As long as your Holistic Dentist is registered to practice in your province, state or country your insurance provider will view them in the same light as a traditional Dentist.

Things are less predictable when your Holistic Dentist recommends a treatment, diagnostic test or supplement that your dental insurance does not cover. For example, a Holistic Dentist is more likely to recommend herbs and supplements and certain diagnostic tests (i.e. for jaw issues or obstructive sleep apnea) compared to a non-holistic Dentist. Your insurance company may not view these things as eligible expenses meaning that they will not cover them.

The best approach is always to have your Dentist submit a pre-determination for treatment costs to your insurance provider. This will help you to determine if what the Dentist is recommending will be covered by insurance.

What do Holistic Dentists use for fillings?

Generally, a holistic dentist will frown upon the use of amalgam or mercury-containing fillings. Some may believe that these fillings are toxic despite a lack of peer-reviewed research to support that claim. Most Dentists, holistic and traditional, now use composite resin or "white fillings" and so this has become the default restorative material in Dentistry.

Dental Fillings Kitchener Dentist
Many Holistic Dentists favour tooth-coloured composite resin dental fillings.

It's important to meet with any holistic Dentist to discuss their philosophies before joining their practice. Not all holistic practitioners believe the same thing. For a time, some Dentists were claiming to take a holistic approach solely on the basis of a non-mercury approach. Specifically, they recommended patients replace all mercury-containing fillings with the standard composite resin ones. However, holistic dentistry is more than just an anti-mercury stance.

It is also important to note that replacing your mercury-containing fillings can actually spike your exposure levels. When you remove these fillings you create both mercury-containing particles in the saliva and you vaporize mercury-containing compounds. Some dentists claim that they use a rubber dam barrier and special suction system to ensure zero exposure but these systems are not perfect. I'm not suggesting that you don't replace your mercury-containing fillings but I'd like to encourage you to ask your Dentist more questions about safety and potential risks!

What are some of the things most Holistic Dentists focus on?


Do you breath through your mouth? Do you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea that you're not aware of? Why do these things matter? Well, mouth breathing can affect skeletal development in children and it can also dry out your mouth creating an environment that favours more harmful kinds of bacteria? Sleep apnea can have a myriad of negative effects and can also lead to intense clenching and grinding that can damage your teeth and jaws. Holistic Dentists focus on how you sleep. They can arrange diagnostic tests and sleep studies to make sure you're getting the most out of sleep time.


Is your diet supplying your teeth and gums with what they need for optimal health? Are you getting enough Calcium and Phosphorus in your diet to bolster your tooth enamel? Do you consume enough Vitamin C for immunity and to help collagen synthesis for healthy gums? A Holistic Dentist will want to make sure you're consuming the right building blocks to keep your dental and overall health on point.


Many holistic Dentists prefer that their patients avoid fluoride in toothpaste and drinking water. Many patients still need some kind of supplement to help their enamel resist decay. There are many no-fluoride toothpastes out there but they don't help to keep your teeth strong. Enter Hydroxyapatite Toothpaste. Hydroxyapatite (HA) is the main building block in tooth enamel and dentin. When you use HA toothpaste, you're feeding your teeth the very same stuff they're made of. Sound simple? It is. Sound more natural? It is.

Non-metal restorations

Many holistic Dentists will favour composite bonding (white fillings) over mercury-containing amalgam fillings. They may also offer ceramic implants over traditional titanium ones. Depending on your viewpoint about the use of biocompatible metals in your mouth, you may prefer ceramic alternatives.

Holistic Dentistry encompasses far more than just the few philosophies above. My goal was to outline a few of the more common stances taken by holistic Dentists. Any two people calling themselves Holistic Dentists may differ in their viewpoints on different topics. This underscores the importance of meeting with anybody you're considering as a potential care provider to learn about their approach.

Root Canal Treatment

Some holistic Dentists advocate for patients to avoid root canal treatment. Root canal treatment resolves tooth infection or abscess to eliminate pain. A Holistic Dentist may believe that root canal treatment results in maintaining a tooth that can become re-infected in future. Research shows that careful, detailed and thorough root canal treatments are safe and provide great longevity. For this reason, I believe that a more reasonable approach to root canal treatment is to emphasize the importance of thorough and high-quality treatment.

Does Enamel Republic provide Holistic Dentistry in Kitchener-Waterloo?

Any Dentist can brand their clinic as a Holistic dental practice. These are just words. They don't refer to any particular certification that exists for Holistic Dentistry. (NOTE: courses and training programs for Holistic Dentistry do exist but there is no mandatory training necessary to be able to call yourself a Holistic Dentist). What counts is your Family Dentists approach to care and, most importantly, that it resonates with what you believe in.

Given that there is no standard for Holistic Dentistry and that wide variation exists between Holistic practitioners, it's difficult for me to say definitively if I am a holistic Dentist. At our office, we do approach dental care with an open mind and work with our patients to help them achieve maximum health while respecting their beliefs and priorities. Here are a few examples to help make our approach more clear:

Our Approach to Fluoride

I am not against the safe use of fluoridated toothpastes. However, we have a lot of parents that prefer their children minimize fluoride exposure. I really like Hydroxapatite toothpastes as an alternative to Fluoride because they still contain ingredients that fortify tooth enamel. I also like the concept of feeding your teeth natural building blocks to help them heal. Our patients often note that other Dentists lectured them on fluoride use so I'd say that, compared to the average traditional dentist, I have a far less rigid stance on fluoride use.

Tooth Decay and Cavities

When it is safe to take a non-treatment approach to early tooth decay, we do so. We always favour a conservative approach including dietary control, more brushing, flossing and use of fortifying toothpastes where safe and prudent. If a patient has early decay lesions that we can re-mineralize, we take the time to teach them how to do this. This approach allows them to raise their game to avoid future dental treatment. Unfortunately, some tooth decay lesions get to a depth where treatment with dental fillings is necessary. In these instances, we recommend the most conservative and responsible approach to the placement of dental fillings.

Amalgam Fillings

I don't advocate for replacement of amalgam fillings unless they are breaking down or no longer functioning correctly. If an amalgam filling is in good condition, I won't recommend to replace it. If a patient believes that their amalgam fillings are unhealthy for them and they ask us to replace them, we do so only after a thorough discussion regarding potential risks. It is important to note that amalgam filling replacement can occasionally result in nerve irritation and some teeth don't heal afterward. In these cases, root canal treatment or tooth extraction may be necessary so it's important for patients to be aware of all risks in advance of elective replacement of silver fillings.

Our Overall Approach to Diagnosis & Treatment

In the tradition of Holistic Dentistry, we take an investigative approach to dental health. If we can learn more about why you're getting cavities or gum disease to help you solve the problem, we make every effort to do so. If you keep coming back with cavities and we're placing dental fillings each year without a preventive solution, I don't feel like I've done a proper job as your Family Dentist. So we'll always try to get to the root cause of any problem you're experiencing. If dry mouth, tooth grinding, sleep apnea, soda pop consumption or systemic disease (to name only a few factors) are causing cavities, gum disease or jaw problems, we'll help you to figure out a preventive solution. Can we call our approach holistic? That's for you to decide!

Our Take Home Message on Holistic Dentistry

Overall, I believe that Holistic Dentistry brings with it a spirit of investigation and an integrative view of human health. Holistic Dentists are driven to understand how the entire body and external factors combine to produce disease states. They strive to understand the root cause of cavities and gum disease in a given patient so they can address these causes and provide solutions. For most holistic Dentists, the ideal outcome is preventing the need for dental treatment. I think that, overall, this is a good thing.

The key with exploring holistic Dentistry is making sure that the philosophies of any given practitioner are in alignment with your ideals and priorities. You might not be well-served by joining a practice aimed at turning you into a disciple of their belief system. I believe that the best relationships exist when a patient feels comfortable and welcome to challenge their Dentist's ideas. You should feel comfortable asking questions and seeking transparency. If you are seeking a Holistic Dentist, try to find somebody that would be okay with you not believing in everything that they do.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions at all, please reach out at (Attn: Dr. Kyle), and I'll get right back to you!

As always, thank you for reading.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

My name is Kyle Hornby and I am a Dentist in Kitchener, ON. Each week I tackle common dental topics to help you better understand how to raise the bar on your dental home care. My overall goal is to help patients to need less treatment so they can save money on annual dental fees. This week, I'd like to discuss a common patient concern: receding gums.

I hope that this guide will help patients to better understand what causes gum recession as well as whether or not the recession they're experiencing will worsen and require treatment. Knowledge is really powerful stuff. Thus, I hope these posts can help patients to have a productive, informed discussion with their Dentist about treatment options.

So, I'll start by briefly explaining what gum recession is along with a discussion of its root causes (there are a few). The we'll tackle how to think about and track gum recession over time so we can better understand stability and determine if any need for treatment exists.

What do receding gums look like?

Gum recession is any progressive loss of tissue whereby the crest or collar of the gums (their highest point) moves toward the root of your tooth. Thus, when your gums recede, more of your tooth root becomes exposed.

So what do you see at home when your gums recede?

Well, you may be able to identify gum recession visually but sometimes, it can be tricky to do so. The root of your tooth is more yellow and rough than your shiny white tooth enamel. But, if your enamel is yellowy or your roots are more on the whitish side, telling apart enamel and root dentin will be challenging. If you can't tell where your roots start, you won't know for sure if your gums are receding.

Generally, your Dentist or Dental Hygienist will be best equipped to identify gum recession. We also measure gum attachment levels every 1-2 years so we can quantify the rate of gum recession too.

Gums that recede may be inflamed and red, but they can also be pink, firm and completely normal looking. So, it's best to rely on your dental healthcare providers to spot gum recession.

What causes receding gums?

Well, there are a few root causes of gum recession. Generally, the gums recede at a very slow rate with age. The often-used expression that an aging person is getting "long in the tooth" refers to how teeth look longer as a result of gum recession as we get older.

There are, however, other causes of gum recession that (luckily) we can control. In some patients there is a single cause of recession while in others, multiple causes are in play. Generally, anything that causes trauma or damage to the gums can lead to recession.

Here's a list of things that can cause your gums to recede (including what you can do to stop gum recession):

Periodontitis or Gum Disease

Gum Disease comes in many forms but generally it involves the progressive loss of tooth-supporting jaw bone and gum tissue. The cause is typically chronic inflammation due to poor oral hygiene and accumulation of bacteria around teeth and gums. Often times (but not always) loss of supporting bone leads to gum recession. Improving oral hygiene can slow or stop the progression of gum disease and the recession it often causes.

Forceful Tooth Brushing

It's quite common for people to use a side-to-side scrubbing motion and heavy force to clean their teeth. This technique can remove plaque quickly but it can also cause gum irritation that leads to recession. The answer is to transition to a more gentle brushing technique. Brush your teeth as though you are painting a portrait. Use many repetitions under light force. Try to favour a more circular motion with the bristles instead of side-to-side scrubbing. If your gums are receding because of heavy brushing, a proper technique will help to stop recession in its tracks!

Grinding or Clenching your Teeth

Yes, grinding your teeth can lead to receding gums. It's definitely not something you'd expect given that your teeth don't touch the opposing gums when grinding. However, when you lock your teeth together and grind them, you're applying hundreds of pounds of pressure through your teeth and down through the gums and jawbone. This can cause low-grade trauma night-after-night over many years and this often results in rapid gum recession. What you need is something to cushion and absorb excessive grinding forces. Your Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist can make you a custom night guard to protect your teeth and absorb harmful force during nighttime grinding bouts.

Smoking Cigarettes and Cannabis or Vaping

Smoking (both cigarettes and Cannabis/Marijuana) leads to a dramatic reduction in blood and nutrient supply to your gums. It also causes an increase in your body's cells that break down gum tissue during regular turnover and repair. This shifts the balance you see in healthy patients toward a slow destruction of gum tissue. Smoking also reduces the ability of your gums to heal following trauma. That means that if you grind your teeth, brush too hard, or suffer from gum disease, smoking will make all of those things even more destructive to your gums. Luckily, there is plenty of research showing that gums will rebound after smoking cessation. It's important to be specific here: your gums won't regrow to cover tooth roots after you quit smoking but your gums will be healthier, enjoy a richer nutrient supply and be able to better withstand trauma and injury.

Orthodontic Treatment and Receding Gums

Orthodontic tooth alignment can cause receding gums? Absolutely. Here's why...

Most people that pursue Invisalign or traditional braces do so to alleviate crowding. When teeth don't have the space they need, they rotate and tip into positions that allow them to erupt into the mouth. What you get over time is crowding and misaligned teeth. The way that Orthodontists create enough space is by increasing the perimeter of your dental arch.

To increase the perimeter or circumference of an upper or lower arch of teeth, you push the teeth out slightly toward the lip and cheek. Once you increase the perimeter of a dental arch, you have more room to fit teeth in, in their proper position. This gives you the smile you want.

However, moving teeth out toward the lip and cheek means having teeth with less bone and gum coverage on their front surface. If you position teeth right in the middle of the jaw, they enjoy the thickest, highest bone and gum coverage possible. When you move them away from the middle, they enjoy thinner, lower bone and gum coverage.

Many patients who have had Orthodontic treatment notice 1-2 mm (mild) gum recession around their canine and premolar teeth. Sometimes, the gums recede around their front teeth, too.

Can you reverse gum recession?

Unfortunately, you cannot regrow gum tissue. Preventing gum recession is the best approach. Stopping active gum recession in its tracks takes second place. However, once you deal with what's causing your gums to recede, they stay at that level without improvement.

So, can anything be done to restore gum levels back to their original position?

The only treatment that can predictably restore lost gum tissue is connective tissue grafting. There are some other grafting techniques out there, including "pedicle grafting" and "alloderm grafting" but these techniques don't have the track record that connective tissue grafting does.

What you need to know about Connective Tissue Grafting

Connective tissue grafting is a treatment you can complete at your local Periodontist (or, Gum Specialist). It involves a minor surgical procedure whereby gum tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth and placed over your exposed tooth roots. The healing time on the procedure is 3-4 weeks. Post-operatively, patients can expect a couple of weeks of moderate pain or discomfort.

Connective tissue grafting typically costs about $1000 per tooth. Sometimes dental insurance will cover a portion of the procedure.

Most importantly, heavy brushing, tooth grinding, smoking and gum disease will all cause gum grafts to fail long-term. Therefore, it's super important that you get all causes of gum recession under control before pursuing connective tissue grafting.

Now I want to transition into discussing symptoms and risks that come with gum recession.

Can receding gums cause tooth pain?

When your gums recede, they expose the outer surface of your tooth root. Enamel (a great insulator) does not cover your roots and, therefore, root exposure can lead to intense sensitivity to acids, cold temperatures and sweet foods and drinks.

This varies for every patient with some not experiencing much if any tooth sensitivity while others will be searching for solutions to their painful gum recession problem. Luckily, most cases of tooth sensitivity can benefit from use of Sensodyne toothpaste. Topical fluoride treatments at your Dentist can also help.

If the sensitivity is extreme, you can pursue gum grafts or cover sensitive roots with dental filling material or dental bonding.

Can receding gums cause tooth loss?

Gum recession can occur with loss of supporting jaw bone but, oftentimes, gums recede without bone loss. Fortunately, the main support structure for your teeth is the jaw bone. Therefore, when gums recede it is common that patients still have lots of supportive jaw bone left.

It is only in cases where we see significant bone loss that patients may eventually lose teeth. But, strictly speaking, gum recession does not lead to, or cause, tooth loss.

When should I worry about gum recession?

This is a great question because what it really addresses is stability. If you're 50 and you have 1-2 mm of mild recession on a few teeth, this is pretty normal. I would argue that mild, localized recession on a few teeth is pretty normal even for a 30 year old. The key factor is whether or not the recession is progressive or ongoing.

In many cases, if we identify the cause of recession, we can control it and stabilize gum levels in the process. The time for a patient to worry (and possibly seek treatment) is when recession is rapidly progressing despite control over any contributing factors. When would this happen?

Well, when you have receding gums around a tooth and the remaining gum tissue is thin and frail, you'll likely get more recession. This recession will likely continue even if you control any contributing factors (like smoking, gum disease, tooth grinding and aggressive brushing). Therefore, these rare cases should be cause for worry although, luckily, they respond well to treatment.

Where gum recession is likely to progress, a Periodontist can provide a connective tissue graft to thicken the remaining gum tissue. If the remaining gum tissue is thicker and more robust, it will be less likely to recede. This is the goal of connective tissue grafting. Sometimes, the graft can increase gum height too although this should be considered a bonus.

Unfortunately, it's not easy for patients to know just by looking if they can expect more recession in future at a given site. Your Family Dentist will be able to assess the quality of remaining gum tissue and advise you if they feel grafting would be beneficial. From my perspective, I find that most cases of gum recession can be properly controlled by eliminating root causes. It is a rare occurrence that we refer patients to a Periodontist for grafting.

If you have concern regarding the severity of your gum recession or if it's likely to be progressive and get worse over time, ask your Kitchener Family Dentist to have a look.

I hope that you found this article useful and informative. Thanks for reading this week!

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

My name is Kyle Hornby and I am a Dentist in Kitchener, Ontario. Each week, I tackle subjects and answer FAQs to help raise the bar on dental health information available to the general public. Today, I'm going to discuss the natural practice of "oil pulling" and it's efficacy in improving oral health.

Oil pulling has become more popular in recent years as people increase their focus on natural approaches to health care. Research supports some of these practices but not others. As such, patients often ask me about oil pulling and what it can do for them. Today, we'll chat about oil pulling and if it is, indeed, a good thing for oral health.

What is "oil pulling"?

Oil pulling is a practice associated with ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is a health system that people in India have followed for over 5,000 years. Many Ayurvedic techniques, including oil pulling, have now caught on around the world.

Oil pulling involves swishing oil (such as coconut, sesame, or safflower) around your mouth for several minutes. While you can oil pull with any edible oil, some oils have greater health benefits than do others.

Which oil works best for this technique?

Coconut oil. The reason is that it boasts tremendous anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant activity. Pulling with Coconut Oil can reduce the concentration of harmful bacteria in your mouth to help treat Gingivitis and Gum Disease. The Lauric Acid in Coconut Oil may also help to reduce plaque buildup on teeth.

How does oil pulling work?

If you're going to oil pull, you'll want to follow the steps below:

What is oil pulling good for?

Your mouth is home to a community of thousands of different kinds of bacteria. Like any community, some members contribute to the community in a way that has positive effects (think volunteering, etc.,). Some members (typically very few) can do things that have a negative effect on the community (i.e. petty theft or vandalism).

Your mouth is no different in the sense that it's home to both good and bad forms of bacteria. This collection of bacteria is called the Oral Microbiome. The good bacteria can have positive effects toward gum health while the bad bacteria can contribute to the formation of cavities or developing gum disease.

Oil pulling with the right oils, can shift the balance of your oral microbiome in favour of good bacteria that have an overall positive effect. It can, for instance, can reduce inflammation which is one of the main triggers for gum disease.

So, what other positive effects does this practice have?

Can Oil Pulling heal cavities?

Oil pulling with Coconut Oil can help to fight tooth decay. This is because Coconut Oil contains Lauric Acid, a triglyceride that is effective at destroying S. Mutans, a type of bacteria that cause cavities. By controlling S. Mutans levels in the mouth, coconut oil can help to prevent tooth decay.

Studies showing this cavity fighting effect could only demonstrate a decrease in S. Mutans level after a few weeks. This underscores the importance of using oil pulling as a long-term oral health adjunct and not a temporary solution.

It is important to note that Coconut oil pulling will not heal cavities that already exist.

Can Oil pulling eliminate bad breath?

Yes. Coconut oil pulling can disrupt the bacteria that cause bad breath. If you oil pull regularly, you will keep these bacteria (that camp out predominantly on your tongue) at a minimum and find that your breath is more pleasant overall.

Can Oil Pulling remove tartar?

When you swish oils around the mouth vigorously, you can create changes in pressure that may dislodge tartar from in between your teeth. But, don't count on this happening to any significant degree. When you have a professional dental cleaning, your Dental Hygienist uses a metal sickle and moderate force to remove tartar deposits from your teeth. It can be hard work.

So, while oil pulling may dislodge the occasional piece of tartar, it's not likely to be a regular occurrence.

Can Oil Pulling whiten your teeth?

Oil pulling won't whiten your teeth in the same way a peroxide whitening gel or toothpaste would. It's possible that pulling can reduce buildup of stain but, strictly speaking, it won't make your enamel whiter.

How often should you be oil pulling?

Oil pulling twice a week can have positive oral health effects. If you suffer from inflammatory conditions like gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease), you can oil pull daily until you achieve stability.

Let your Kitchener Dentist know if you are oil pulling. This way, they can provide recommendations as to how often you should be doing it. They can also give you feedback about improvements in oral health which may allow for less frequent oil pulling.

Is oil pulling safe?

If you use a high quality, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil for oil pulling, it can be a very safe procedure. This practice, of course, has the benefit of involving the use of a completely natural food oil.

If you're thinking of starting an oil pulling routine, you should consider the following risks:

Can oil pulling be bad for you?

Pulling with high-quality organic oils is not bad for you. As outlined above, make sure to choose an oil to which you are not allergic and remember not to ingest the oil after pulling.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener. We are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

I am a Kitchener Dentist and, each week, I explore a few topics to help you understand what's safe and what's not for your teeth and gums. Today, I'm going to discuss the potential effects that Cannabis can have on your oral health.

With its fairly recent legalization for widespread recreational and medicinal uses, Cannabis consumption is increasing. Cannabis, for instance, can provide patients battling chronic pain with relief and comfort. As people continue to use Cannabis both medicinally and recreationally, it is important that they understand oral health effects. Moreover, understanding how cannabis consumption affects the mouth can alert patients that they may need to alter their oral homecare strategy to keep things in balance and stay healthy.

Cannabis and Oral Health: Dietary Effects

THC, the main psychotropic agent in Cannabis, is a strong appetite stimulant. Commonly, patients using Cannabis will consume high-carbohydrate snacks which make their teeth more susceptible to dental caries or cavities. Overall, regular use of Cannabis and associated high-carb snacking can shift the mouth's balance toward favouring more harmful bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

Here's what you can do to offset harmful effects:

Try to snack on healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. Minimize or avoid starchy snacks that will stick tenaciously to teeth while fueling harmful oral bacteria. Cannabis users sometimes forget to brush their teeth before going to bed which allows high-carbohydrate plaque to stay on their teeth for an additional 8-10 hours while they sleep. Try to be vigilant about brushing for 2-3 minutes after Cannabis use and snacking.

Cannabis and Oral Health: Dry Mouth Effects

Cannabis consumption, regardless of the intake route, causes dry mouth or xerostomia. Low saliva flow following Cannabis use means that less of what you eat will be cleared from the mouth. If you snack on starchy food items, they'll stick even more tenaciously to your teeth in the absence of regular saliva flow. And we all know that high-carb foods sticking to your teeth is a recipe for tooth decay.

Here's what you can do to offset harmful effects:

Try to drink lots of water at frequent intervals after using Cannabis, especially if you're snacking. This will help to boost your clearance of food and minimize plaque buildup. After snacking, do your best to brush and floss your teeth to minimize the risk of tooth decay.

Cannabis and Oral Health: Tissue Changes and Malignancy

Cannabis use can lead to gradual changes in the soft tissues of the mouth. These include enlargement of the gums, chronic tissue inflammation, and development of white patches (or leukoplakias) throughout the mouth. Importantly, these oral changes can progress to become oral cancers.

Currently, it is not understood if the above changes are seen only in patients who smoke Cannabis. Perhaps individuals who consume Cannabis through other routes are minimally susceptible (or not susceptible at all) to these changes. Additionally, research shows that these harmful effects increase dramatically in Cannabis users who also smoke cigarettes.

Here's what you can do to offset harmful effects:

Because we do not currently understand if these tissue changes differ with the route of Cannabis intake, it is difficult to recommend one particular intake route as being safer than another. Generally, experts suggest that smoking Cannabis causes the greatest exposure to irritants and contaminants. However, there is a lot we still do not understand about the risks that come with different intake routes.

One thing we can definitively recommend is that Cannabis users avoid smoking cigarettes to minimize risk of developing malignancies of the oral tissues.

Cannabis and Oral Health FAQs

Can CBD cause Oral Thrush (Candidiasis)?

Consumption of Cannabis has been shown to lower immune function. In fact, statistics show a higher incidence of thrush in Cannabis users. However, CBD, which is just one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant, has been show to have anti-fungal properties. Because of this, there has been some suggestion that CBD oil may provide a natural treatment for eliminating oral candidiasis.

Can Cannabis help with tooth pain?

One component of Cannabis, called THC, acts on receptors in your brain to activate the reward system and reduce pain. CBD has also been show to have positive effects for decreasing pain.

Particular strains of Cannabis, like Cannabis Indica, have been rated by medical patients to best control chronic pain. This suggests there is variability in pain control among different strains. Individuals pursuing pain relief may choose to focus on use of Indica strains to maximize pain relief.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

I am a Kitchener Dentist and I explore a few topics each week to help you understand what's safe and what's not for your teeth and gums. Today, I'm going to explore the idea that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. I will also look at what effects vaping can have on your teeth and gums.

Vaping liquids contain hundreds of ingredients that aerosolize into small particles before you inhale them into your lungs. There is currently very little scientific data on the long-term effects of inhaling these tiny particles while vaping. For this reason, nobody is able to guarantee (nor should they speculate) that vaping is safer than cigarette smoking.

Let's take a look at some of the ingredients in vaping solutions and what effects each has been shown to have on your teeth and gums.

Vaping and Oral Health: Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol (PG) is the carrier component for vaping solutions. Manufacturers us PG in production of polymers and also in the food processing industry. It provides a faintly sweet taste to the aerosols you inhale when vaping. Propylene glycol binds to and soaks up water from your saliva to dry out your mouth. Dry mouth or Xerostomia can cause an increase in susceptibility to cavities and gum disease.

People with Xerostomia tend to have cavities more frequently and require a greater number of dental fillings, overall. Therefore, it appears there is a basis for the idea that vaping can harm your teeth.

Vaping and Oral Health: Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable Glycerin (VG) is another main component of E-cigarette liquid. It is a sweet-tasting liquid on its own but is not metabolized by cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. So, is it safe?

Well, studies have shown that Vegetable Glycerin causes a massive increase in adhesion of harmful microbes to tooth enamel. Because Vegetable Glycerin is viscous, it helps to increase the ability of the cavity-causing bacteria S. Mutans to stick to the pits and fissures on molars. VG in E-cigarette liquids also decreases enamel hardness.

So, essentially, Vegetable Glycerin in E-cigarette liquid increases the ability of harmful bacteria to stick to softer enamel.

Vaping and Oral Health: Nicotine

Nicotine is a harmful substance and you can find it in both conventional and E-cigarettes. Many proponents of the notion that vaping with e-cigarettes is safer than traditional cigarette smoking cite the lower nicotine concentration associated with vaping. However, consumption efficiency differs between the two methods. For instance, 1 e-cigarette cartridge (equivalent to 200 - 400 puffs), can deliver as much nicotine as smoking 2-3 packs of conventional cigarettes.

This nicotine has its most harmful effects on your gums. Nicotine reduces blood flow and nutrition to the gums. It also alters the production of immune system cells within your gums and reduces connective tissue turnover and healing. All of these effects increase your likelihood of developing gum disease or Periodontitis.

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Dentist in Kitchener

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

If you play sports or weight train, you should ask your Kitchener Dentist about getting a custom mouth guard. Athletes can be hit in the mouth or clench their teeth together when absorbing impact. Similarly, people clench during weight training or may sustain impact to their teeth if a weight or bar falls on them accidentally. Both activities can result in broken teeth that require costly dental treatment.

What can happen if I don't wear a Mouth Guard?

The type of injury you sustain to your teeth and gums depends on the amount of impact you absorb. In some cases, one or more teeth may become loose after impact. Other times, you may sustain a small enamel chip or a large fracture. I have seen competitive weightlifters clench and split a tooth in half. So, bad things can happen.

Here's a summary of possible dental injuries that can result from sports accidents:

  1. Loose Teeth. Your Kitchener Dentist will need to splint or attach your teeth together to help them heal. Healing can take between 2-8 weeks. Sometimes these teeth become discoloured or they can develop dental infections requiring root canal treatment. In some cases, a tooth remain loose and never fully heal. In these instances, your Dentist will recommend tooth extraction.
  2. Avulsed Teeth. Avulsion is the dental term for the complete loss of a tooth due to impact. Most of us have seen a movie depicting an athlete getting hit followed by them spitting out a tooth. This is tooth avulsion. When it happens, you need to act quickly in getting to your Kitchener Family Dentist. If they are able to clean both tooth and socket, they can sometimes replant the tooth and achieve full healing. Healing depends on gums and bone reattaching to your tooth. Unfortunately, if this doesn't happen, you'll lose your tooth. Tooth loss gives rise to the need for costly tooth replacement treatments like a denture, dental bridge or implant.
  3. Broken Teeth. Sometimes heavy impact during sports can cause your tooth to break. A Dentist can smooth off a small chip or repair it with dental bonding. Larger breaks may require a dental filling, or in some cases a dental crown to prevent another break in future.

A Helpful Perspective on Dental Accidents

While it's certainly possible for your Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist to repair your broken tooth after a sports accident, you want to avoid having this done at all costs. No repair solution is as good as your natural tooth. All repairs involve materials that don't behave like your natural enamel and dentin. For instance, patients who whiten their teeth quickly find out that their dental filling, veneer or dental crown won't change shade the way a natural tooth will. Additionally, reparative treatments often need replacement after a certain amount of time.

Your natural teeth won't need treatment, maintenance or replacement if you treat them right. A custom athletic night guard helps toward keeping your teeth problem-free!

Where can you buy a custom Mouth Guard?

You can buy a generic athletic mouth guard at any Shopper's Drug Mart or Walmart. Generally, a custom-fit mouth guard will perform better and keep your teeth safer. Ask your Kitchener Family Dentist about having a custom mouth guard made.

How much does a Mouth Guard cost?

A custom mouth guard will cost between $100 - $200. Store-bought varieties tend to cost about $30 - $50. Some dental insurance policies will cover this expense. Ask your Family Dentist to send a pre-determination or estimate to your plan provider.

What are the steps for making my custom Mouth Guard?

Your Kitchener Family Dentist can make your custom mouth guard quickly and easily. Your first appointment will last about 5-10 minutes to enable impression taking. Your Dentist will then use these impressions to make a custom fitting mouth guard. This takes about 3-5 days.

You then return to your Family Dental Office to try in the mouth guard and ensure proper fitting. Done. Two total appointments and about 15 minutes of chair time. It doesn't get much simpler than that!

How An Athletic Mouth Guard Protects Your Teeth (and Gums)

Your mouth guard will be made from a soft and comfortable acrylic. A mouth guard typically fits over your upper teeth (your upper front teeth are most likely to be hit during a sports accident). If you clench together quickly during sports or weight training, your mouth guard will cushion your teeth. If you sustain a direct blow to the mouth or teeth (like from a puck or softball), your teeth will be protected.

A mouth guard can also help to protect your gums and other soft tissues from heavy impact.


Sports accidents can cause damage to your teeth. This damage can mean you'll need costly repairs that may need to be replaced as you age. There is no replacement for a natural tooth in terms of longevity and function. Luckily, you can avoid costly dental work by wearing a custom athletic mouth guard when you play sports or engage in weight training. Mouth Guards are inexpensive, and it takes very little time to have your Dentist make one for you!

Consider a custom mouth guard as an insurance policy on your wonderful smile.

Thanks for reading today. The article was meant to provide a basic understanding of the benefits of mouth guards. Ask your Kitchener-Waterloo Dentist for more information to determine if a custom guard will be right for you!

By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Dentist in Kitchener

Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!

This article is meant to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.

Enjoy a fresh start.
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