Oil Pulling For Dental Care May Sound Like A Crazy Idea, But It Just Might Have Some Validity.
Oil pulling is the action of taking an edible oil such as sesame seed oil and placing about 1 tablespoon in your mouth and vigorously swishing it between the teeth and around the mouth for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. The longer you swish the oil around your mouth, the greater the benefits are purported to be.
The health benefits have been reported to extend to 30 or more medical conditions affecting the whole body, but for now let’s focus on its dental effects.
Indian researchers investigated oil pulling with the goal of discovering the method of action. How does it work?
Is it any better than swishing your mouth with water? Does it have any special properties?
Investigators, using sesame oil, speculated that several components of sesame oil have antibacterial effects. The investigators looked at three common bacteria often found in the mouth, including bacteria involved in the cavity producing process.
The first part of the test involved looking at components of sesame oil, sesamol, sesamin, and sesamolin. The investigators added the components to bacteria cultures in petri dishes to see if they killed off the bacteria. They determined the tested components had absolutely no antibacterial effect on the bacteria tested. But sesamol has potent antioxidant properties. It was not possible to test the antibacterial effect of whole sesame oil using the methods in this experiment.
In the next part of the testing, they analyzed sesame oil, sesame oil plus a saliva sample shaken in a glass container for 15 minutes and sesame oil and saliva swished together for 15 minutes in a volunteer’s mouth. It may sound icky, but someone has to do this stuff.
The analysis revealed that sesame oil swished in the volunteer’s mouth had changed significantly compared to the sesame oil-saliva mixture in a glass container. Something in the mouth made a difference.
In the next step, investigators had participants oil pull for 30 minutes. (My cheeks would hurt.) They took samples from the participant’s mouths every five minutes and analyzed the samples. They determined that after a few minutes the sesame oil was broken up into numerous fat globules suspended in saliva.
As the sampling continued, each 5 minutes the globules became noticeably smaller. This increases the surface area available for biochemical reactions to take place in the mouth enormously. Breaking big fat globules into smaller ones is the first step in normal fat digestion.
After placing samples into glass test tubes and then into a laboratory apparatus called a centrifuge, they saw layers in the samples in the test tubes. At the very bottom of the tubes was oral debris. They noticed in the 30-minute oil pulling samples a soapy layer separated from the oil and the saliva. That’s right, soap. And the longer the oil swishing was done, the greater the number of bacteria in the soapy layer.
In your mouth, in the saliva, there is something called a lipase enzyme. Fats or lipids are broken apart by this enzyme in the fat digestion process. Oils slowly react in the mouth to create soap.
The investigation suggests that even though the components of sesame oil are not antibacterial, the longer you swish the oil and saliva combination in your mouth the more soapy it becomes. The more soap, perhaps the cleaner your mouth becomes. Mom used that same logic for unacceptable word choices with us kids.
So it seems very plausible, that with extended oil pulling times, you are actually cleaning your mouth with a natural soapy solution. That may be part of the reason why it is suggested you do not swallow the oil pulling mixture.
The investigators only looked at sesame oil in this study so I can’t say that coconut oil would yield the same result. But chemically it is similar enough so it is not a big stretch to assume that coconut soap formation would take place.
What would I suggest to increase your effectiveness in using oil pulling? Add an ultra-soft toothbrush to the mix, working the soapy oil saliva mixture into the space between your teeth and gums. You will chase out even more bacteria that will get caught in the soapy layer referenced earlier in this article. Then spit it all out and enjoy a fresher mouth.