In our dental practice, we often talk to patients who are looking for natural ways to improve their health. Oil pulling is a natural oral health aid that has gained popularity recently, although it isn’t a new technique. People have used oil pulling for centuries to keep their teeth and gums healthy and free of infection. Oil pulling refers to swishing oil around in the mouth, pulling it between the teeth and hence, pulling out the bacteria.
The use of unrefined coconut, sunflower, and sesame oils is common, coconut oil being the preferred oil to use for oil pulling. These oils work rather well for the purpose and are also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which offer antioxidant properties to help further support good oral health.
The Effects of Oil on Bacteria
Bacteria cells are surrounded by a lipid membrane. When the bacteria’s fatty membrane comes in contact with the oil, the two stick together. Because they are both fats, they bond together quite tightly allowing you to swish the oil around for several minutes until you are ready to expel it from your mouth. The oil acts as a magnet and draws the bacteria to it, even if it is wedged into tight nooks and crannies within the teeth.
The Benefits of Oil Pulling
By swishing or pulling the oil through the teeth and around the mouth, bacteria is pulled out of its hiding places. It attaches to the oil and can easily be discarded from the mouth. Coconut oil is comprised of 50% lauric acid which is a proven antimicrobial. It fights the bacteria Streptococcus mutans which is the primary cause of tooth decay.
Oil pulling has been shown to whiten teeth and reduce bad breath, gum inflammation, and tooth sensitivity. It may have other positive benefits for overall health. Streptococcus mutans is known to cause diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, and sinusitis among others. A reduction in the bacteria in the mouth may lower the risk of bacteria traveling to other organs and infecting them.
Oil Pulling Best Practices
There are several best practices to help get the most benefit from oil pulling. Follow these guidelines:
- Swish gently for about 20 minutes. You may need to build up to 20 minutes when you start practicing oil pulling. If your jaw starts to hurt you may be swishing too hard.
- Expel as much of the oil as possible to prevent any bacteria from being swallowed and taken into the body.
- Rinse thoroughly before consuming beverages.
- Spit the oil into the trash, never down the sink or in the toilet. It could build up and cause clogged pipes.
Oil pulling helps to keep the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth healthy between dental visits. However, it should never be used in place of a visit to your dentist. Performing the task for 10 to 20 minutes a day can dramatically reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth at any given time and help you maintain good oral health.
Ready to try oil pulling? We recommend you use unrefined coconut oil, available at most health food stores. Try it for a few weeks and make a note of the improvement in your oral health. We’d love to hear your results!
Ultimate Smile Design, in Palm Bay, Florida, has been serving patients for over 30 years with friendly and professional dental care. Schedule an appointment today for yourself and your family to maintain your healthy smile.