If you’ve been reading about a growing trend in oral health that stems from an old tradition, you may be hesitant about asking a dental professional about its benefits. There are plenty of reasons why you should, however, discuss your oral health concerns with your dentist, so we thought we’d save you the questions and discuss the claims about “Oil Pulling,” a therapy that has a history reaching back thousands of years.
What, exactly is it? Does it work? And should it replace modern dental procedures?
The Simple Answers
Oil pulling, as defined in modern vernacular, is the process of swishing about a tablespoon of oil around in your mouth for about 20 minutes; it is then spit out. While the technique may take some practice and at first the 20 minutes may seem like an eternity, there is nothing harmful or difficult about it. Coconut oil is often recommended and preferred, but olive, sesame and sunflower oils may also be used.
Answers to the other two questions? A qualified Yes and an unqualified No. Let’s explore those responses in a little more detail.
Does Oil Pulling Work?
There is, indeed, a basis in real science for the claims. It is absolutely true that swishing oil around in your mouth is not harmful. And recent studies confirm that oil pulling has beneficial effects in fighting gingivitis, plaque and halitosis, or bad breath. The reason is relatively simple: mouth bacteria, at least the common variety, are single-cell microorganisms composed of a fatty membrane that acts as the cell “skin.” When it comes in contact with the circulating oil, it sticks. When you spit out the oil, the bacteria goes with it.
Although the benefits of coconut milk, coconut meat and coconut oil in the diet are also touted for energy-boosting effects and weight control, you really don’t want to swallow the oil you use for swishing and gargling. If you have trouble not swallowing, try using a smaller amount of oil, and shorten the time frame.
Also, start your routine by swishing for only five minutes, or even less, and gradually increase the time. It will take some time to perfect the routine.
The Difference in Oils
According to dental professionals who embrace the therapeutic effects of oil pulling, the reasons for using coconut oil are also based in science. It contains an added ingredient that is absent in other oils. Known as lauric acid, it is also a component of mother’s milk and is being studied for its anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties. It occurs naturally in coconut and palm kernel oils. Synthesized lauric acid is well-known for its anti-microbial properties, and there is also some evidence that coconut oil helps directly lower incidences of or even prevent tooth decay.
Other oils have other benefits for teeth, including Vitamin E oil that you can use as a topical rub on inflamed or irritated gums. Its inherent antioxidant properties help regenerate tissue as well as soothing inflammation.
Doing It the Right Way
Once you get used to the feeling of pushing, pulling and swishing the oil through your teeth and around your mouth, it should become the kind of routine that you can stick to. It should never replace brushing, flossing, and regular checkups with your dentist, but if you choose to use it as a supplemental component in your oral health routine, it’s difficult to object. There simply are no valid reasons for not trying it, if you are so inclined. Those who have tried oil pulling confirm that coconut oil seems to have a pleasant taste, although because it is semi-solid at room temperature, you might have to chew on it at first to liquify the oil enough to slosh it around and through your teeth.
Develop your own routine. You don’t have to do it every day. Start slowly — maybe two or three times a week for five minutes at a time. Add minutes or days only when it feels comfortable to do so. Most people recommend oil pulling first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, followed by a rinse with clear water. If later in the day is better for you to use this oil pulling technique that is fine.
One “convert” to this ancient practice talks about seeing results in just 10 days, with noticeably whiter, cleaner, shinier teeth and fresher breath.
The Final Recommendation
Although some dental professionals hesitate to recommend oil pulling to patients, most find no reason to discourage patients who want to try a natural adjunct to familiar tooth and mouth care. Coconut oil and other oils are natural and can do no harm. Commercial mouthwashes, whitening solutions and even toothpastes do, on the other hand, sometimes contain harsh ingredients. Though the jury may still be out on oil pulling, the verdict will almost certainly not be unfavorable.
At your next regular appointment, we invite you to ask any questions you might have about oil pulling. If you try it out prior to your next scheduled exam, the entire staff at Briglia Dental Group will be interested in hearing about your experience. Call us today at 610-692-4440 or click here to schedule your next appointment. We may just have some questions to ask you. Until then, we know that you’ll continue to cherish that smile, and take good care of those teeth. After all, they’re as important today as they were to people thousands of years ago — isn’t it interesting that we may be rediscovering good practices from the past?