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Does Coconut Oil Pulling Work?

coconut oil pulling
Published By Dr. Rachel Hall at 2 January, 2023

You may or may not be familiar with coconut oil pulling and its touted benefits for oral health. As a holistic dentist, I have been asked so many times about oil pulling and if it’s worth doing so I thought it was time to talk about it and answer the question does coconut oil pulling work?

Coconut Oil Pulling

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is an old remedy that uses natural substances to support cleaning and detoxifying teeth and gums. It supposedly has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it is beneficial in improving gums and removing harmful bacteria due to the antibacterial properties of the coconut oil.

The technique no different to using mouthwash is to swish in the oil around the mouth for a short time each day to help improve oral health.

The oil is able to cut through plaque and remove toxins without disturbing the teeth or gums.

Essentially, oil pulling is just using a high-quality organic oil as a mouthwash to help cleanse the mouth.

Really, it could be called oil-swishing or oil mouth washing as the word pulling can be confusing but it refers to the idea that the oil is pulling bacteria out of the gums.

What Oils Can You Use For Oil Pulling?

Make sure to use a food-grade oil that can also be eaten.

The oil you use for oil pulling depends on you. But when it comes to anti-bacterial properties and supposed support for teeth whitening, then coconut oil is said to be the most effective.

According to the British Dental Journal (BDJ), coconut oil is also slightly more effective at removing certain bacteria from the mouth. These include Streptococcus mutans bacteria known for causing dental caries.

Sesame oil is the oil recommended by most sources (mostly because it was one of the more widely available oils when the practice began). It’s also the most well-studied and considered safe for those not allergic to sesame seeds. But it does have a very strong taste

You can also use olive oil if you prefer but be sure to avoid using high Omega-6 or chemically created oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.

Benefits of Coconut Oil Pulling

Oil pulling works because the oil, especially those with naturally antibacterial properties, binds to the biofilm, or plaque, on the teeth and reduces the number of bacteria in the mouth.

Streptococcus Mutans is one of the bacteria that is prominent in the mouth and it has been studied for its role in tooth decay and gum disease. Oil pulling has been shown to reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans bacteria in the mouth, especially when done with coconut oil.

Some sources claim that coconut oil pulling can help everything from acne to sore throats and even heart disease, though I’ve never seen any scientific documentation of these claims.

It is well known that good oral health practices can benefit the body in other ways, so it certainly may be beneficial as part of a good oral health routine.

I certainly wouldn’t rely on oil pulling alone as a method to address any internal or serious medical problem, but I do find it helpful for keeping the mouth healthy and avoiding bad breath. But no more so than a good antibacterial mouthwash.

Coconut oil is effective in attacking Streptococcus Mutans bacteria which causes cavities. It is rich in medium-chain triglycerides and high in lauric acid.

Coconut Oil Pulling Is Not A Magic Fix

If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, especially the more advanced form of periodontal disease where the bone around your teeth is being irreversible destroyed then oil pulling will not cure or address your problem.

But it can support healing and maintenance of gum health once your dentist has treated your gum issues clinically in the dental office with a series of deep cleans or gum therapy.

Oil pulling is not a treatment or panacea for your dental issues but an adjunct to your oral health regime and regular dental care.

Coconut Oil Pulling Cautions

It is important to use oil pulling as part of a comprehensive oral health regimen and not to use it as a replacement for normal oral hygiene and teeth brushing.

As a holistic dentist, I am open to but remain sceptical of many of the claims about coconut oil pulling being able to benefit the body internally. But I do consider it a safe alternative to mouthwash and don’t see it as a problem when used in combination with other good dental hygiene methods.

How to Use  Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling

  • Put 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil into the mouth. You can add a few drops of essential oils that are safe to use in the mouth also.
  • Swish for 20 minutes – this is the advice as it is said this is the window of time that is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria.
  • The oil will get thicker and milky as it is mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spat out.
  • Spit oil into the rubbish bin, not down the sink. Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria and plaque that are now not in the mouth.
  • Rinse your mouth well with warm water.
  • Brush well to make sure any remaining bacteria are removed.

Note: MCT oil is a great option for those who don’t like the taste of coconut oil but still want the benefits.

Is Oil Pulling Better Than Mouthwash?

Mouthwash and oil pulling work by dislodging food debris and bacteria but it is important to apply the correct techniques and choose the right product especially when it comes to mouthwash.

Whichever you choose to make sure you use it daily and be aware that if time is a limitation then 20 minutes of oil pulling a day is probably not going to fit into your routine and you will derive the same benefits in one minute with a good quality mouthwash.

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  • Dr. Rachel Hall

    Dr. Rachel Hall

    Rachel is the founder and principal dentist at Evolve Dental Healing with over 30 years experience, practising holistically since 2001. Not your typical dentist, Rachel is a passionate opinion leader, challenging convention to empower people to make better dental and health choices, helping thousands to have healthy natural smiles. A respected writer and presenter on holistic dentistry, health and wellness it is Rachel’s mission to revolutionise the way people look at their dental health.

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