Oil pulling has received quite a bit of attention in the media lately with claims that it whitens your teeth, reduces cavities, and increases both oral and overall health.
What is oil pulling? It is the process of putting an edible oil into your mouth and swishing it around (or “pulling” it between your teeth) for anywhere from 1 minute to 20 minutes (depending on which source you read) then spitting out the oil. The oil is supposed to cut through the biofilm and plaque in your mouth to reduce bacteria and leave teeth looking whiter. The most popular oil currently is coconut oil though traditionally sesame oil or sunflower oil were used.
Before you get too excited, both the American Dental Association (ADA) and WebMD caution that oil pulling should not replace oral hygiene standards of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. The ADA also states that there are no reliable studies showing that oil pulling works, though some groups reference a 2009 study that shows oil pulling reduced the number of oral bacteria just as much as a prescription chlorhexidene gluconate (CHG) mouthrinse did. The ADA recommends using a mouthwash with the ADA Seal instead of oil pulling. They specifically mention that Listerine contains essential oils but these oils are suspended in a medium that is designed to be used in the mouth. WebMD concedes that there might be some benefit from oil pulling when it is used in conjunction with brushing and flossing, and CNN reports that oil pulling is about as effective as regular mouthwash.
Side effects from oil pulling include reports of lipoid pneumonia (possibly due to breathing in small amounts of the oil during the process), diarrhea, upset stomach, dry mouth, and sore jaws.
Note: Information in this post is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare practitioners.
Jennifer Robb, DMD is a general dentist who treats all ages. Her office is located at 1612 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH. If you would like to become a patient of Dr. Robb please call 440-960-1940 or use the contact form at www.drjrobb.com