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Is Oil Pulling really good for you?

Klennerable questions…I saw a post on Pinterest talking about oil pulling. It claims that it takes toxins out by washing your mouth with either vegetable oil or virgin coconut oil. This one girl even said that she lost weight and her teeth got whiter.. Are there any advantages to oil pulling?

The Beauty Brains responds:

This is the first time I’ve heard weight-loss claims attributed to oil pulling but this ancient process is widely claimed to help detoxify the body. While I put absolutely no faith in the anecdotal claims of these detox benefits there does appear to be some evidence that the procedure has a positive impact on oral health.

Test results for oil pulling

One study shows swishing sesame oil in the mouth improves reduces gingivitis and plaque. There was a net decline in mean plaque scores from baseline to 45 days amounting to 0.81±0.41 (p<0.01). Another study, as reported by the British Dental Association, shows that “pulling” with coconut oil can reduce cavities. They found that that “coconut oil strongly inhibited the growth of most strains of Streptococcus bacteria including Streptococcus mutans – a major cause of caries.” However, the coconut oil may need to be “pre-digested” with an enzyme to make it most effective.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Getting rid of toxins by oil pulling is a myth but it may provide benefits to your teeth and gums. Talk with your dentist for a better understanding of how to make oil pulling a part of your complete oral health regimen.

References:

http://www.johcd.org/pdf/Effect_of_Oil_Pulling_on_Plaque_and_Gingivitis.pdf J Oral Health Comm Dent 2007 ;1(1):12-18

http://www.nature.com/bdj/journal/v213/n6/full/sj.bdj.2012.856.html

TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria. African Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol 2:3 pp 63-66, MAR 2008. < TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Lexy December 17, 2014, 1:20 am

    I thought I had found a scientific source for information regarding cosmetics. And then I found this question. My litmus test. And I clicked on it.

    I am a dental student and know very well that oil pulling does not have the evidence to back it up. See the ADA comments on oil pulling here: http://www.ada.org/en/science-research/science-in-the-news/the-practice-of-oil-pulling

    However, for the sake of argument, and because I know you are not dental professionals running this site, let’s take a scientific perusal of the literature referenced in the article.

    The first article (none of these are properly cited by the way), “Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study” sounds great with their sample size of literally 20 people. Those not familiar with scientific research may not know that this is not a huge number upon which to base a conclusion. This is not what I dislike about this article the most. It just annoys me. What I dislike the most about this article is that there is NO negative control. That is to say, that there is a group which swishes with oil, and there is a group that swishes with Chlorhexidine, but no group that swishes with something neutral like water. So the initial reading is from when no one is swishing with anything, and then they compare it to when they are swishing with something everyday. What I suspect is that the act of swishing was what actually caused a reduction in plaque, but without a negative control, like swishing with water, we will never know. The study was poorly designed.

    The second article referenced is not actually the scientific article at all, but rather scientific journalism, which tends to misinterpret and over-exaggerate scientific research. I did find the actual article though. And, as stated on your page here, they did not use the triglyceride form of the oil that everyone uses for oil pulling, rather a broken down form that resulted in the fatty acid version instead. That kind of breakdown of the oil in our bodies doesn’t happen until the oil hits that small intestine. One would have to have some seriously super-crazy acid reflux to make that oil in any way (possibly) effective in improving oral health.

    The third article has only 10 subjects and no control at all. I don’t know what else to say about it. There is a before they are swishing with anything measurement, and an after they’ve swished with oil measurement. How about swishing with water so that we know it is the oil instead of just the mechanical act of swishing that has resulted in improvement.

    Please please please just brush and floss. Two minutes of brushing plus one minute of flossing sounds way better than twenty minutes of oil pulling and is scientifically proven.

    I would expect that any scientist would be able to analyze and critique any scientific paper, even those not in their field, to identify basic parameters of experimental design. Based on three rather lousy journal articles with terrible experimental design, very low sample sizes with very specific populations, and poorly thought out conclusions, you have recommended that your readers try oil pulling in their daily routine. I am very disappointed in what I’ve read here today.

    At lease you’ve recommended they talk their dentist.

    • Randy Schueller December 17, 2014, 6:44 am

      Hi Lexy. I agree that we could have been more thorough in our review of the scientific literature but I was just surprised to find ANY evidence that this process might actually be beneficial. To be fair, I did NOT recommend that people try this as you stated. What I said was “Talk with your dentist for a better understanding of how to make oil pulling a part of your complete oral health regimen.” My assumption is that most dentists would agree with your advice of “just brush and floss.” Thanks for your comments though, Perry and I really appreciate your time!

    • Perry Romanowski December 17, 2014, 8:49 am

      @Lexy – We cover a wide range of topics and can not do a deep analysis of everything. You’ve done an excellent job of digging deeper and hopefully that is what our website inspires people to do.

      The evidence for oil pulling is definitely limited and perhaps there is no benefit but these studies are suggestive of a benefit.

      Incidentally, I was surprised to learn that your advice to “floss daily” is not supported by science either. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19138178
      You might consider doing a deep dive into the research on that topic.

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