March 30, 2013 | by Kris Gunnars
I love it when I learn new things from the comments people leave on my site.
About two weeks ago, I wrote an article about coconut oil – an awesome tropical oil with many health benefits.
A few people commented that they use coconut oil for something called “Oil Pulling” – which is kind of like using an oil as mouthwash.
Apparently, there are quite a few studies that support this process and a lot of people on blogs and discussion boards swear by it.
I have now been doing this every morning for about 10 days… and I am impressed.
What is Oil Pulling and How Does it Work?
Oil pulling has been used for thousands of years as an Indian folk remedy.
It involves putting about a tablespoon of oil in your mouth, then swishing it around your teeth for 10-20 minutes.
There are thousands of different types of bacteria in the mouth. Some of them are friendly, others are not.
Certain bacteria can cause harm, such as Streptococcus Mutans, which is the main culprit behind plaque buildup, gingivitis and cavities.
The bacteria in the mouth create a “biofilm” on the teeth – a thin layer that they use to adhere to the surface. This is what we know as “plaque.”
Having some plaque on your teeth is normal, but if it gets out of hand it can cause all sorts of problems.
The way oil pulling works is simple. When you swish the oil around your mouth, the bacteria “get stuck” in it and dissolve in the liquid oil.
Basically, you remove a large amount of the bacteria and plaque in your mouth each time you do this.
I Personally Prefer Coconut Oil
Traditionally, the Indians used other oils such as sesame oil or sunflower oil.
Oil pulling should work with pretty much any oil you choose.
The taste of coconut oil is also fairly pleasant compared to other oils. I found it rather disgusting at first having my mouth full of oil, but I got used to it after a few days.
Now let’s look at a few studies on oil pulling…
Oil Pulling and Streptococcus Mutans
Streptococcus Mutans is one of the main bacteria in the mouth and a key player in plaque buildup and tooth decay.
In a study published in 2008 with 20 adolescent boys, oil pulling (using sesame oil) caused a reduction in the number of Streptococcus Mutans in the plaque in as little as 2 weeks (3).
It was not as effective as a Chlorhexidine mouthwash, but much cheaper and MUCH less nasty.
Oil Pulling Can Reduce Plaque and Gingivitis
Gingivitis is caused by inflammation of the gums and happens when the immune system starts attacking the bacteria in the plaque.
Another study compared oil pulling and chlorhexidine in adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis. Both oil pulling and chlorhexidine mouthwash were effective against gingivitis (4).
Oil Pulling Can Reduce Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is in many cases (not all) caused by the smell of chemicals and gases produced by bacteria in the mouth.
It makes sense that if you get rid of some of these bacteria, you reduce bad breath.
In a third study of 20 adolescents, oil pulling therapy significantly reduced all markers for bad breath and was just as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash (5).