Within the past few years or so, there’s been an uproar about an alternative medicine practice called oil pulling. Have you heard of it? We’ve had quite a few patients ask us about this practice, and if it can help their dental health.
If you’re one of the many people, who are still confused on whether or not you should try oil pulling, then listen up.
Today, we’re going to get to the bottom of oil pulling, explain what it is, and then explain the science behind whether or not it works. Then, you can make up your mind for yourself on whether it’s worth your time.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is a form of ancient Ayurvedic medicine, in which people swished with oil under the presumption that they’re removing toxins from their body. Ayurvedic medicine was founded in the belief that food is medicine and vice-versa.
Instead of using modern medicine, those who practice Ayurvedic medicine try to use herbal oils and treatments to help eliminate toxins from the body. It makes sense that eliminating toxins would help with dental health. After all, cavities and gum disease are caused by bacteria. However, there is only a small body of hard science behind these claims. But, we’ll get to that later.
Nowadays, Westerners have begun to recycle this practice, only they use coconut oil from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Oil pullers take a teaspoon of melted coconut oil, put it in their mouth, then swish for about 20 minutes.
Alternative health practitioners that champion this form of “DIY dentistry” say that oil pulling has the power to whiten teeth, improve gum health, reverse cavities, and even cure hangovers.
What’s the Science Behind Oil Pulling?
It’s hard to say whether there’s any hard science behind the practice of oil pulling, because there are only a few small studies on its effects. The majority of the studies only use a small population to conduct their research.
However, one oil pulling study that used coconut oil found that it successfully reduced the amount of the bacteria, S. mutans. Streptococcus mutans is a bacteria responsible for tooth decay and bacterial overgrowth. Nonetheless, when it comes to cavities, a lot more bacteria comes into play than S. mutans. There is also no substantial evidence to the claims that it whitens teeth, and there’s certainly no science behind the claim that it reverses cavities.
There’s a good chance that people feel like their mouth is cleaner, and their teeth are whiter, because oil leaves their mouth feeling hydrated.
The research on coconut oil also found that it contains Lauric acid, which is known to fight off viruses and yeast overgrowth. With that being said, there is a chance that this property works to even out the mouth’s pH. At the same time, the studies don’t show a reduction in tooth decay.
Another belief behind oil pulling is that it works by pulling bacteria out of the crevices and nooks in the mouth. Most bacteria in the mouth have a lipid (fatty) membrane. This means that the bacteria is made up of a layer of fat. The fat on the outside of the bacteria is thought to stick to bond and stick to the coconut oil, which then draws it out of its hiding places.
All in all, the effects of oil pulling were found to be no more effective than using a chlorhexidine rinse that’s ADA approved. At the same time, oil pulling won’t hurt your dental health, but you shouldn’t use it to replace brushing, flossing, or visiting the dentist.
And, if you have a cavity, then you should get it filled. If you go too long without getting a cavity filled, it can progress into a painful abscess that requires a root canal or extraction.