The concept of oil-pulling is derived from Ayurvedic medicine and is supposed to improve oral and systemic health.
It’s known as oil-pulling because you swish or pull the oil around the mouth for a period of up to 20 minutes. I believe there may be some benefits although there is very little scientific evidence to support oil-pulling and further research is needed.
How does it work? It’s thought the oil provides a surface layer that prevents plaque or bacteria adhering to teeth. Others say that it dissolves the bacterial cell wall as they are fat soluble and not water soluble. Some edible oils such as coconut oil has several proven benefits. They contain lots of easily digestible, fat-soluble vitamins: A,D,E and K.
Lab studies have shown that edible oils such as sesame coconut and sunflower oil have antibacterial properties and tea tree oil may help gingivitis. If my patients ask me about oil-pulling, I won’t discourage them but I will emphasise that oil pulling cannot and should not be a substitute for a good brushing and flossing regime or regular visits to a dentist and hygienist. Any delays in going to the dentist may make a potential problem worse.
There are no known significant harmful side effects of using these edible oils as a mouthwash and if there might be a benefit, I won’t discourage patients. But we wonder whether popular mouthwashes can ever be replaced by “oil-pulls”? They don’t spell marketing magic to us.