There are a growing trend in oral health care. This is a practice called coconut oil pulling and it is nothing new. This practice has actually been around for over 3000 years and it is a type of traditional Indian practice called Ayurvedic medicine. Studies suggest oil pulling removes bacteria in the mouth, reduces cavities, improves bad breath and improves gum health and other oral health conditions. The idea involves swishing a teaspoon to tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth up to 20 minutes and then spitting it out. There are 5 things you need to know about this practice.
1. Does Coconut Oil Pulling Work and How?
Certain types of harmful bacteria in the mouth contribute to conditions such as gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. Oil pulling with coconut oil is very effective at reducing these conditions. The majority of the bacteria that cause these are called Streptococcus Mutans. These microorganisms consist of a single cell and are covered by a outer membrane comprised of a lipid or fatty membrane which is the bacterial cell’s skin. When the coconut oil (or fat) is swished in the mouth it naturally adheres to the fatty outer layer of the bacteria which attracts it out and away from the oral cavity.
2. The Proper Way to Do It
There are other oils that can be used for oil pulling such as sunflower or sesame oil. However, coconut oil is most recommended due to it content of lauric acid. Lauric acid has been found to have antimicrobial properties that also benefit the oral cavity. Most people start with one teaspoon to one tablespoon of coconut oil at a time. You will want to place it in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. Gently swish, pull and suck the oil through your teeth. Some people have a hard time holding this in their mouth for that long of a time so you may want to start with 10 to 15 minutes and work your way up to the recommended time. During this time the fat will liquify and pull the impurities from the mucous membranes of your oral cavity.
3. Tips for Afterwards
Make sure to spit the oil into the trash afterwards and not into the sink. If it goes into the sink, it may clog the pipes. Afterwards it is recommended to brush and floss as you normally would as part of your daily oral hygiene routine. There are no restrictions on eating or drinking afterwards. If you wish, you can follow this practice by swishing with warm salt water. However, this is not necessary as any of the residue will be removed with your normal brushing routine.
4. What Will It Do?
There’s a lot of misconception about what coconut oil pulling can and cannot do. It is very effective at reducing gingivitis. An overgrowth of bacteria will cause red, tender and inflamed gums that bleed easily. This is called gingivitis. It is a reversible condition and can be treated when bacteria are sufficiently killed or removed.
It may help remineralize enamel. Our teeth are designed to remineralize themselves but only in the absense of cavity causing bacteria. Coconut oil pulling ensures that bad cavity causing bacteria are eliminated while beneficial bacteria are allowed to thrive.
Coconut oil has more than antibacterial properties. It also has antifungal properties. This means it kills the Candida yeast that live in the mouth. An overgrowth of Candida can cause an infection called oral thrush. This condition is most often seen by people taking medications altering the natural microbiome such as steroids or antibiotics. People undergoing radiation, chemotherapy, using inhalers for asthma or those who wear dentures are at increased risk for Candida infections.
Unlike mouthwash, which can dry out the mouth with its alcohol content, oil pulling supports our saliva’s efforts. Our saliva has minerals in it so it helps to remineralize our teeth and at the same time it washes away bacteria that cause bad breath. In this way, coconut oil pulling helps to reduce bad breath. It disorganizes the bacteria without killing the good bacteria and drying out the mouth as most mouthwashes do.
5. What Won’t It Do?
Coconut oil doesn’t whiten teeth. Some people swear by the whitening properties of oil pulling. However, no clinical studies have proven that the shade of the enamel has actually lightened. It might help improve the appearance of the teeth by removing stains and reducing plaque buildup but does not actually whiten teeth.
Ayurvedic medicine has many claims of more than 30 conditions that oil pulling will treat or cure. Many people swear by improvements they have seen in their own health conditions. Some of these conditions range from arthritis, asthma, diabetes, migraines and even hangovers. To date there is no scientific evidence supporting the claims that conditions other than in the mouth will be treated or cured.
Oil pulling will not replace good oral hygiene habits of brushing and flossing. It should only be considered an adjunct to your normal oral hygiene routine of reducing plaque and cavity causing bacteria.
Try It For Yourself!
The best way to know if it will work for you is to try it yourself. I invite you to share your comments and stories below with your personal experiences. As a Dental Hygienist, I have seen many very positive outcomes from my patients but would like to hear more! I have included a link to an all natural, organic and cold pressed coconut oil on Amazon here if you need help choosing the best product to use.