Coconut oil carries several health advantages, oral and otherwise. The absorbent properties of natural lipids can remove bacteria from the body. What’s more, oil pulling can be performed during other activities, such as taking a shower or bathing, which makes it easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Coconut oil pulling is an ancient Indian folk remedy that dates back 3,000 years. The practice has recently become popular online. Reviews claim that it freshens the breath and whitens teeth. Let’s explore whether coconut oil can actually improve your oral health.
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What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling means using lipids such as sesame or coconut oil to cleanse the oral cavity. This has the aim of reducing the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Most organisms that live there have the structure of a single cell. Fats adhere to them and make bacteria easier to flush out.
Coconut oil is considered the best choice, as it contains lauric acid. This is a natural antimicrobial agent, giving users the fastest results. It can also slow down the process of tooth decay formation.
How does coconut oil improve your mouth’s condition?
Coconut oil’s benefits, that have been confirmed by scientists, can cumulatively lead to better oral health. Have a look at what oil pulling can do for your mouth.
A study conducted in 2008 found that oil pulling helps remove bacteria from the saliva. Those results were confirmed in 2016, when a similar study was performed to compare the effects of coconut oil to those of chlorhexidine mouthwash. Both concluded that this home remedy is a safe and effective alternative.
By reducing the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth, oil pulling may help prevent many oral diseases. Most prominently tooth decay and periodontitis.
Halitosis is usually caused by insufficient oral hygiene. Bacteria and their by-products gather on the soft tissues in the mouth to form plaque on the teeth. This may also lead to infections or even foul-smelling pus forming on the gums.
As it removes bacteria, coconut oil can improve the smell of your breath. The effectiveness may be compared to professional dental products.
Cavities form on the teeth due to bacteria breaking down and producing demineralizing acids. Those damage tooth enamel, which is dentition’s first defence. Any treatment that helps counteract this process can protect teeth from caries, which also stain teeth.
A study from 2016 confirms that oil pulling may be a great addition to oral care such as brushing and flossing.
The bacteria that is present in plaque may lead to gingivitis. This is a disease of the gums. Symptoms include tender, red, or swollen gums that sometimes bleed. Coconut oil has bacteria-killing and plaque-reducing properties and may decrease the inflammation and prevent discoloration caused by these issues.
While it is not a cure, a 2015 study has found that it can significantly lessen discomfort and the amount of plaque in the mouth.
Coconut oil teeth whitening effects
Online reviews praise coconut oil pulling for its teeth whitening effects. This is not surprising, as coconut oil’s many properties help improve the way your mouth looks. It may not whiten your teeth per se, it rather leads to a healthier smile which is brighter by default.
The fact that coconut oil reduces bacteria and prevents cavities, means your teeth won’t suffer staining that comes with such issues. Caries in particular can cause yellow, brown, or gray spots on dentition.
Bacteria, periodontitis, and gingivitis may make teeth yellow. All these may also lead to gum recession, making discoloration even worse. Coconut oil, while fighting those conditions off, keeps your teeth pearly white.
How to use coconut oil for teeth?
Following the guide below will help you source many benefits from the ancient practice.
Consult with a dentist
Any dental solution, whether it be a home remedy or OTC products, should start with a professional consultation. Your dentist is the best person to advise how coconut oil pulling can benefit your mouth.
It may be that he or she first recommends in-office treatment, such as a teeth cleaning or SRP. This depends on the issues you are facing. Coconut oil pulling may then act as support to professional procedures.
Introduce coconut oil pulling gradually
Start by putting a tablespoon of oil into your mouth. Sip a little water if it’s more solid than liquid. Sit upright and breathe through your nose. At the beginning, try to swish it around in your mouth for about 5 minutes. You can extend the duration up to 15-20 as you continue this practice. This makes it easier to build up the habit.
Here are a couple of tips that can make it more comfortable and convenient:
- Do not put too much oil into your mouth at first. It will be harder to keep it in your mouth, especially if you are just beginning.
- Don’t swallow. It may make you nauseous.
- Keep your face muscles relaxed.
- Try to spit into a trash can when you're done, especially if you perform the treatment every day. Oil can clog up pipes pretty quickly.
Many patients quote best results when pulling oil on an empty stomach. There is no evidence, however, that this makes a difference. Incorporate the solution into your routine in a way that will make most sense for you.
Keep up proper oral hygiene
This technique should not replace your oral routine. When you are done, rinse your mouth and brush your teeth. You may want to invest in a separate brush to use right after pulling. The chances are, fatty cells may be left behind and it can make the toothbrush unpleasant in the long run.
You should also visit your dentist for a checkup at least once a year. A professional cleaning is recommended every 6 months. Those can prevent oral diseases as well as discoloration and staining.
This practice is safe to conduct every day.
Other than a coconut oil allergy, there are not many contraindications. The product is edible, so no amount should cause damage to your body. Some case reports bring attention to lipoid pneumonia, however this is extremely rare and only happens if patients overdo what is recommended.
The oil itself is not what whitens teeth. It is the cumulative benefits it brings. This means it will take longer for you to see effects than with, for example, whitening strips. Use the technique for about a month in order to judge the changes it can bring to your mouth.
The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) claims that oil pulling removes chemical, bacterial, and environmental toxins from the blood.
According to the official statement, for now, the American Dental Association does not support oil pulling to improve oral hygiene. This is mainly due to the lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
Nonetheless, practice and new research show positive effects of using coconut oil for teeth. More and more dentists suggest their patients try coconut oil pulling to support their everyday oral hygiene routine.
Coconut oil is an ingredient many people have in their kitchen cupboards anyway. If not, you can buy it in most grocery stores and supermarkets.
You may want to look for coconut oil in a tube. Those are often lemon oil or peppermint oil flavored. This solution is less messy than using a spoon and a jar of coconut oil.
- Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study - NIH
- Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: a randomized controlled pilot trial - NIH
- The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash - NIH
- Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review - NCBI
- Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis - A preliminary report - PubMed