Oil Pulling: Fact vs. Fiction
How does “Oil Pulling” work?
The phrase “Oil Pulling” comes from the process of the oil being “worked” in the mouth by pulling, pushing, and sucking it through the teeth for at least 20 minutes per day. Consistent high-velocity swishing is though to “clean” the teeth and the oil acts as a detergent to reduce plaque buildup.
1. COCONUT OIL PULLING DOES NOT REPLACE BRUSHING AND FLOSSING
There has been a claim that the act of swishing coconut oil around your mouth and in-between your teeth can remove bacteria. Plaque needs to be mechanically removed by scraping it off of the tooth surface with your toothbrush, floss, and by hygienist tools. But what about all the studies that say oil pulling reduces plaque? Reducing and removing plaque are two very two different things. Consider this: Swishing for twenty minutes with oil reduces plaque in the same way that swishing with water for twenty minutes reduces plaque – all that happens is a dilution of the stickiness of plaque and its ability to stick to teeth.
2. IF IT DOESN’T REPLACE BRUSHING AND FLOSSING, IS OIL PULLING EVEN WORTH IT?
While oil pulling is time-consuming and takes time to show results, if it is done daily, oil pulling can remove some tooth staining and reduce plaque and bacteria. However, it is not enough to prevent gum disease. That’s where flossing, brushing, and tongue scraping comes in.
3. OIL PULLING CAN BE USED AS A MOUTHWASH AND CAN IMPROVE GUT HEALTH
From kitchen cleaning products to mouthwashes, we are constantly being sold products that claim to kill 99.9% of germs. We are told that germs are bad – end of story. However, our oral health products should not be lumped in with cleaning supplies! While our mouthwashes clean out the bad bacteria living in our mouth, it wipes out the good too, which isn’t good for dental health nor the health of the rest of your body. Overall health — including brain health — depends on a healthy microbiome, which is our body’s natural bacterial ecology that we have evolved with and which prevents disease.
Coconut oil can be an organic substitute for mouthwash as it contains Vitamin E, which acts an as antioxidant, and also is reported have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties thanks to the lauric acid and monolaurin.
4. OIL PULLING IS NOT KID FRIENDLY
If oil goes down the wrong tube, it can cause lipoid pneumonia – an awfully silly risk to take for something that does not have much upside for a child’s dental health. The best thing parents can do for their children’s dental health is focus on raising great brushers and flossers using only positive reinforcement.
5. OIL PULLING IS SAFE DURING PREGNANCY
Oil pulling does not draw out toxins in the mouth, but if you like oil pulling, there’s no reason to stop while you’re pregnant.
6. OIL PULLING WILL NOT WHITEN YOUR TEETH
Oil pulling for 20-30 minutes every day could help remove some teeth staining, but so does swishing with water for just as long. If you want to whiten your teeth, speak with your dentist and they will send you in the right direction – whether it be in-office whitening or take-home whitening.
7. OIL PULLING DOES NOT TREAT TMJ/TMD DISCOMFORT
Swishing with oil doesn’t address the root causes that contribute to the many factors that cause jaw pain. If you are oil pulling and experiencing some jaw pain relief, keep in mind that this is masking the symptoms, but failing to treat the root cause.
8. THERE ARE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH OIL PULLING
The negative side effects of oil pulling include dry mouth, excessive thirst, muscular stiffness, exhaustion, and loss of sensation or taste in the mouth.
Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and needs to be disposed of in a waste receptacle and not the sink. This oil can clog drains.
Any person with a heart attack risk or atheroma present in the vessels confirmed by CIMT (Carotid Intima Thickness Test) or a positive Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring Test should avoid oils that can be used as building blocks of an atheroma.
Oil pulling and its effects are superficial and will not reach deep pockets for anyone with periodontal disease.
There are definitely some serious myths associated with coconut oil pulling that have been debunked. With this being said, there is limited research out there surrounding oil pulling; however, just because there is not a lot of evidence out there does not mean that there are not individuals experiencing the health benefits of it.
All in all: As long as you’re aware of how to do it safely and always use a high-quality oil, there is no real downside to oil pulling.