By Mina Levi, DDS, 12/04/2014
You may have heard about a relatively controversial old-school remedy for improving oral health called “oil pulling”. Oil pulling involves swishing a tablespoon of oil (usually coconut oil or sunflower oil) in a person’s mouth on an empty stomach for about fifteen to twenty minutes. This act is supposed to be able to “pull” toxins out of the body through the teeth and oral tissue, improving oral and overall health. In this article, Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi discusses oil pulling, potential pros and researched effectiveness of the method.
How is oil pulling supposed to work?
There are thousands of different types of bacteria in the mouth, many of which have hydrophobic outer layers. Hydrophobic means “water-fearing” molecules, just like oil (if you have ever seen oil separate when put in water; that is the hydophobicity at work). The way that oil pulling theoretically is that when the oil makes contact with the hydrophobic bacteria, the bacteria will cling to the oil and be removed from the location in the mouth.
1. Reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth. In a study performed in 2008, oil pulling caused a reduction in the number of Streptococcus Mutans (bacteria) in the plaque in the mouth in about 2 weeks. The oil pulling was not as effective, however, as chlorhexidine, which is what is prescribed by the dentist to remove bacteria in the mouth when there is over-abundance.
2. Reduce plaque and gingivitis. Another study concluded that oil pulling and chlorhexidine mouthwash were effective against gum inflammation.
3. Reduce bad breath. In a study of twenty adolescents, oil pulling therapy reduced markers for bad breath and was found to be just as effective as chlorhexidine.
Despite the possible benefits that oil pulling can have, it is also important to remember that oil pulling does not in any way replace regular oral hygiene and professional check-ups. If you have questions or concerns regarding oil pulling, please visit Dentist San Francisco Mina Levi, DDS on the web at www.minalevidds.com or give us a call at (415) 513-5066.