Have you heard the buzz about coconut oil? From making your hair beautiful and shiny to helping with oral health and dieting, coconut oil is championed as a magical elixir.
Besides eating coconut oil, proponents also swish with it. The act of swishing with coconut oil is called “oil pulling.” Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine that is supposed to naturally whiten and clean your teeth. It’s also supposed to help defend against gum disease causing bacteria.
Today, we want to talk about some of the oral health claims of oil pulling and clarify some questions around the folk medicine. This way, you can make informed decision on your dental health.
Oil pulling is easy to practice, if you have 20 minutes to spare. First, you’ll need to obtain some coconut oil, which you can get from most grocery stores for about $6-10 a jar.
Put 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil in your mouth, set a timer for 20 minutes, and start swishing…then, continue to swish...and swish a little bit more, until your 20 minute timer goes off.
When you finish swishing for 20 minutes, spit it into a trash can. Avoid spitting it in the sink, because it can solidify in the pipes and mess up your septic system.
Don’t swallow the oil either, because at this point, it should have absorbed some of the bacteria in your mouth. You don’t want to transfer all of your gingival bacteria to your stomach. Plus, coconut oil is better to cook with than eat plain.
After rinsing and spitting, rinse your mouth out with warm water to get rid of any excess bacteria and oil. You can also try rinsing with salt water, because it’s more effective at removing the excess oil. Then, brush your teeth, floss, and give yourself one last rinse.
While oil pulling is championed by a lot of people, there are only a small number of scientific studies on the practice. Furthermore, there aren’t any studies proving coconut oil as an effective oral health practice to reduce cavities.
One study found coconut oil was successful at reducing Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that’s linked to tooth decay and gum disease.
However, on a bigger scale, coconut oil didn’t make a big dent in the S. mutans population any more than an over the counter chlorhexidine rinse.
Another study looked at the Lauric acid in coconut oil, finding it effective at fighting off bacteria and the overgrowth of yeast.
One dentist claims there’s some science behind oil pulling’s antibacterial capabilities. Most of the bacteria that lives in your mouth are single-celled with a lipid (fatty) membrane. So, when you swish with coconut oil, the fat in the oil naturally binds to the bacteria that’s hidden in the nooks and crannies of your teeth and gums.
Oil pulling won’t hurt your dental health, but you should never use it to replace flossing, brushing, and visiting your dentist regularly.
It’s also important to remember that there’s no evidence that oil pulling reverses cavities and tooth decay. With that being said, if you have cavities, you should still treat them with traditional fillings.
You should also be careful not to breath any oil in your lungs when oil pulling. This is more important to keep in mind if you’re getting your child to oil pull. There have been a number of lipid pneumonia cases, where the coconut oil goes down the bronchial tubes and inflames the lungs.
If you’re suffering from dental health issues like tooth decay and gum disease, get to the dentist. We’ll be able to recommend specialists to treat your current situation or prescribe special mouthwashes to fix your gum disease.