Does Coconut Oil Pulling Actually Work?

Have you heard of oil pulling? Essentially, it’s the practice of swirling oil around your mouth and then spitting it out. Why do people do this, and is it actually a good idea?

The practice of oil pulling originated as a folk remedy, part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine in ancient India. People practicing oil pulling use sunflower oil, sesame seed oil, or, most frequently, coconut oil. This oil is swirled around the mouth for somewhere between five and twenty minutes, long enough to be swished all over the teeth and mouth, and then it is spit out into the sink or trash can.

Proponents of oil pulling claim that it removes toxins and bacteria from the body, pulling them out through the gums and mouth. Many different benefits are attributed to oil pulling, and advocates claim it can whiten teeth, treat tooth decay, eliminate bad breath, heal bleeding gums, prevent cavities, heal the sinuses, and even prevent heart disease. Some go even further, saying it can help with allergies and asthma, chronic fatigue, diabetes, migraine headaches, and acne.

If these claims seem a little over the top to you, you have good instincts. From a scientific standpoint, there’s very little evidence to back up these claims. The ADA (American Dental Association) doesn’t recommend it because of a lack of science; there just haven’t been an adequate number of properly conducted studies to confirm its efficacy.

On the other hand, there is research to show that oil pulling can have one particular benefit for your oral health. Some studies have indicated that oil pulling with coconut oil can significantly reduce the number of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in your mouth. This is good news, because S. mutans is one of the primary factors in plaque buildup and tooth decay. So, while oil pulling is unlikely to be the cure-all some claim it to be, by removing some bacteria from your mouth it can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath.

Does this mean you should try it? It’s up to you. There’s very little risk involved in oil pulling, as long as you use a reputable oil and then spit it out and don’t inhale it. Here’s the most important thing to remember, though: oil pulling is no substitute for good dental hygiene. Try it if you’re interested, but don’t stop brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once.

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