A lot of patients ask me about coconut oil for uses ranging from cooking, to cosmetic self-care and recently oil pulling. Oil pulling is a term used for using an oil just as you would a mouthrinse. There are actually a lot of studies on this topic and people swear by the process. The oral cavity is a complex, vascular environment of many bacterium, fungi, cells, enzymes...the list goes on. Improvement in the oral cavity generally correlates to improvement in overall health so let's explore this topic.
Oil pulling defined simply is the act of swishing around oils in the mouth. It has been used in Indian culture for ages. You use a tablespoon of the oil and the theory is that is reduces the bacterial load while also freshening breath, reducing bacteria counts and potentially whitening teeth. Each and every time you do this you remove a large amount of the bacterial load. This is the same as using a over the counter mouthrinse like Scope or Listerine. With coconut oil, the lauric acid (one of it's fatty acids) is said to be a potential antimicrobial agent. When compared to other agents we typically use as mouthwashes coconut oil or any other oil has also been seen to be effective at decreasing the bacterium responsible for cavity formation, it is effective at preventing gingivitis and may taste better and reduce halitosis (bad breath) just as our other OTC products.
It is called pulling because the process is a little intensive where you focus on pushing and pulling the oil between the teeth. It must be done for a longer duration of time, sometimes up to 20 minutes. Coconut oil is relatively solid at room temperature so may require some chewing to start to melt the tablespoon worth of oil. Many swear by this process but I'm not so trendy, I'll stick to my Listerine, or other store brand version! If you too swear by oil pulling, let me know! I'd love to hear!