You may have seen a friend post about oil pulling online or heard it mentioned in the news, but what is this new trend, and can it actually benefit your dental health? Dr. Flanagan and our team are committed to staying current with the latest dental tricks and techniques to help our patients care for their teeth. To that end, we’ve dedicated this week’s blog post to describing the basic premise of oil pulling and explaining how it can fit into your daily dental regimen.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling involves regularly swishing coconut, sesame, olive, sunflower or another type of oil in your mouth for approximately 20 minutes. It’s actually an ancient Ayurvedic ritual, but oil pulling has only recently become popular among Americans, particularly those looking for more holistic health solutions. In a WebMD article about the subject, Dr. Jessica Emery, a Chicago dentist, explains the logic behind this practice: “Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell…Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell’s skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other.”
Basically, the idea behind oil pulling is that oil functions like a bacteria magnet, picking up these pesky disease- and decay-causing microorganisms. When you spit out the oil, which often turns white and cloudy in this process, you rid your body of these bacteria, potentially reducing your risk for periodontal (gum) disease and caries. Some people have also reported decreased tooth sensitivity and whiter teeth after oil pulling.
Should You Oil Pull?
Oil pulling is a very divisive and controversial topic in modern dentistry. In a May 2014 report, the American Dental Association wrote: “Based on the lack of currently available evidence, oil pulling is not recommended as a supplementary oral hygiene practice, and certainly not as a replacement for standard, time-tested oral health behaviors and modalities.” However, in a piece for Dentistry IQ, Dr. Emery argues that oil pulling “is a great supplemental therapy” for dental patients. Overall, oil pulling may not provide all the benefits some articles describe, but it likely will not hurt your dental health. Of course, as Dr. Emery and the ADA both point out, oil pulling is not a substitute for brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once per day, and attending biannual dental checkups.
How to Oil Pull
If you want to try incorporating oil pulling into your daily dental routine:
· Use coconut oil. Unlike other options, coconut oil contains lauric acid, an antimicrobial agent. In addition, preliminary studies suggest that coconut oil may help to prevent cavities.
· Don’t swallow any of the oil. Once you’ve filled the oil with toxins and bacteria from your teeth and gums, you certainly don’t want to ingest it. Dr. Emery notes that if you’re having difficulty not swallowing some of the oil in your mouth, you should use less.
· Don’t try to swish for the full 20 minutes right away. While the oil needs time to collect bacteria and move around your mouth, oil pulling shouldn’t cause jaw pain. Dr. Emery recommends beginning your oil pulling therapy with just five minutes of gentle swishing. If you never work your way up to a 20-minute swishing session, this might not be so bad, either. As Steven Novella notes in his Science Based Medicine article on oil pulling: “the long duration of mouth swishing with oil recommended by oil pulling advocates may increase the risk of lipoid pneumonia [a respiratory condition that can develop from accidentally inhaling oil] as a complication.”
· Spit your used oil into a trashcan or other receptacle, not the sink, toilet, or shower drain, since the oil isn’t good for your pipes.
· Rinse your mouth and brush your teeth after oil pulling. This helps remove any remaining residue so you do not inadvertently swallow it.
Dr. Flanagan can help answer additional questions about oil pulling at your next dental appointment.
Learn More Oral Health Tricks and Tips
Remember oil pulling is not a substitute for regular oral hygiene. We can help you learn many other ways to keep your teeth and gums clean and beautiful. Contact Cindy Flanagan, D.D.S. to find out more or schedule an appointment today.