What’s the Science Behind Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient practice described in the Charaka Samhita, which is one of the two primary texts in the Indian system of Ayurveda. Oil pulling involves swirling a cold pressed, organic edible oil such as coconut oil in the mouth for approximately twenty minutes before spitting it out. Here, Dentists on the Gold Coast explain the science behind this ancient practice.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Kills Harmful Bacteria:
Recent studies indicate that oil pulling may contribute to the reduction of certain harmful bacteria in the mouth. In a two-week study involving 20 children who used either standard mouthwash or sesame oil as a treatment, it was found that both mouthwash and oil pulling resulted in less bacteria in saliva and plaque in the mouth.
Another study involving 60 participants found that pulling coconut oil for two weeks reduced the number of bacteria found in saliva. The results were the same as using regular mouthwash.
While there is no indication that oil pulling can treat severe oral disease, the case could be made that keeping bad bacteria in check through oil pulling can delay the onset of some oral conditions.
Reduces Bad Breath:
Bad breath is caused by the proliferation of bad bacteria in the mouth. Each bacterium is protected by a microscopic lipid layer which protects the organism and it is believed that the lipid particles of the oil cause the bacteria to be washed away easily by swirling oil around in the mouth.
In the study mentioned earlier involving 20 children, the significant reduction in bacteria in the saliva could indicate a positive effect in the reduction of bad breath.
Effect on Tooth Decay
While there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for oil pulling, more research is required to determine whether this technique has a measurable effect on tooth decay. However, a study published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology shows a two-week experiment where two groups used chlorhexidine mouthwash and oil respectively and found a significant reduction in streptococcus mutans which is an acid producing bacteria which causes tooth decay.
Criticism of Oil Pulling Studies
While there are a few studies that show a measurable benefit to oil pulling, there are plenty of scholarly articles which suggest the need for more rigorous research with regard to this technique. Dentists believe that in some cases, results have possibly been misinterpreted, that sample sizes were too small and the lack of negative control groups makes it difficult to reach concrete conclusions.
Side Effects of Oil Pulling
If done improperly, oil pulling could result in the inhalation of small lipid particles into the lungs which can cause lipoid pneumonia. This can be especially risky for children since they may inadvertently inhale oil droplets. Swallowing large amounts of oil can also result in stomach issues like diarrhoea.
The Importance of Regular Dental Check-ups
While the benefits of oil pulling are still up for debate, there is no doubt that a combination of modern dentistry and natural forms of dental care is the best way to ensure your oral health. However, there is no substitute for a comprehensive dental care routine and oil pulling should never replace your current dental care practices. Learn more about modern teeth whitening practices on our website, or schedule a thorough dental check-up with our experts today!