Oil Pulling…Fact or Fiction?

It seems as if the American Dental Association (ADA) is on the fence about this one!

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There is a lot of discussion about oil pulling. What is it? What does it do, does it work, is it worth trying, or is it just some “thing” that people used to do over 5000 years ago? However this thing called oil pulling is still practiced today!  Oil pulling is done by putting a tablespoon amount of a chosen oil into the mouth and swishing it around from anywhere from 2-20 min, then spitting it out.  The idea is to remove toxins from the oral cavity.

Now some dental professionals say that there is no need at all for the practice of oil pulling because it does not correct tooth decay etc.  They say there is no evidence of oil pulling being significantly beneficial.  In fact, it may have adverse health effects such as lipoid pneumonia or mineral aspiration.  ADA suggests that oil pulling is NOT recommended as a daily supplementary oral hygienic routine and certainly not a replacement for brushing twice daily with a follow-up use of flossing and Listerine.  Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing is the recommended routine for preventing cavities and other oral issues that may arise.

But lets touch back on the subject of Listerine that the ADA very much so defends! listerine Laboratory experiments have shown concrete evidence of fighting the build up of plaque.  But what about the four essential oils that are used in Listerine?  Thymol, Eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and methonal are all oils.  So when using Listerine, is it not still essentially oil pulling that is happening?  ADA justifies it by saying that its different from using what is commonly used (coconut oil, sesame oil, tea tree) by stating that they are different because they are used in smaller concentrations mixed in an aqueous solution.

Though ADA states that they, “Compared oil pulling to the use of a chlorhexidine rinse, found chlorhexidine to be much more effective in reducing S. mutans levels in plaque and saliva. However, the same study did not look at whether the S. mutans reduction provided the clinical benefit of reducing cavities.”  So can we really throw the idea of oil pulling out the window?

Jessica T. Emery DMD wrote a very interesting article explaining the benefits of oil pulling.  Though it does not reverse certain oral issues, it can certainly serves as a preventative care that can be added to the daily routine.  She explains, “The longer you push and pull the oil through your mouth, the more microbes are pulled free. The oil needs to be swished around long enough for it to turn a milky white, which indicates that the bacteria has been “pulled” off. After roughly 20 minutes the solution is filled with bacteria, viruses and other organisms; at this point, the person spits out the oil and rinses thoroughly with water […] most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell. Cells are covered with a lipid (fatty) membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, “a fat,” they naturally adhere to each other. People use different types of oil such as sesame and sunflower oil, but these oils both have omega 6 fats that are pro-inflammatory, and most of us have too much of these in our diet as it is. Coconut oil is preferred because 50% of the fat in coconut oil is comprised of the bacteria whooping ingredient lauric acid. Lauric acid is very well known for its antimicrobial actions; it inhibits Strep mutans that are the primary bacteria that cause tooth decay. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that recent studies have shown the benefit of coconut oil in the prevention of tooth decay.”

Along with the natural whitening of the teeth, Dr. Emery explains the other health benefits oilpullingspecific to people with potential heart conditions, digestion, pregnant women etc.

It does not seem like such a bad idea to add oil pulling to your daily regimen of brushing twice a day, flossing, and using Listerine. It seems as though oil pulling just puts a halt to oral hygiene or cavities getting worse.  After all it is all preventative care.

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