The correct use of a toothbrush, dental floss and interdental cleaning brushes guarantees good health of the teeth and oral cavity. However, there is also another ally for oral hygiene and is given by oil pulling, a technique that involves rinsing the mouth for a few minutes with a vegetable oil, such as coconut, sunflower or sesame oil.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice, but its validity also has an important scientific basis. Today we are talking about three scientific researches, carried out in recent years and which have shown the effectiveness of oil pulling to reduce dry mouth, dental plaque and bad breath.
Oil pulling against dry mouth
The first research is very recent and was published in the journal Oral Diseases by a German team from the University of Cologne (Ludwar et al, Oral Dis, 2022). Scientists have studied the effectiveness of oil pulling performed with sunflower oil in case of xerostomia, or dry mouth, caused by drugs. Well, after a week of regular rinsing with sunflower oil, the symptoms of dry mouth were reduced and the study participants could swallow more easily. Not only that, thanks to the use of oil pulling, nocturnal awakenings linked to the condition of dry mouth and associated discomfort were also reduced.
Oil pulling against caries and plaque
The second study was published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research by an Indian team (Nagilla et al, J Clin Diagn Res, 2017). The scientists worked on analyzing the action of oil pulling performed with coconut oil on the formation of dental plaque. 40 volunteers were recruited, half of whom were asked to perform coconut oil rinses every day for ten minutes. After just seven days of treatment, a reduction in dental plaque was observed in those who had used coconut oil. Previous studies, which had analyzed the action of oil pulling performed with other oils, had observed benefits after a longer time, from 10 days for sesame oil to 30 days for sunflower oil.
Therefore, coconut oil is more powerful than other vegetable oils in counteracting bacterial adhesion to the surface of the teeth and the formation of plaque, thus helping to prevent gingivitis and tooth decay. It is believed that this most effective action is due to the characteristics of coconut oil, particularly rich in anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and cleansing substances, such as lauric acid.
Oil pulling against halitosis
The third research was also published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research by an Indian team (Sood et al, J Clin Diagn Res, 2014). In this case, scientists have tried to understand the action of oil pulling in case of bad breath. For this purpose, 60 volunteers were selected, all with halitosis not attributable to poor oral hygiene, medicines or gastritis. Half of the volunteers were asked to rinse with 15ml of sesame oil every day. The other half of the volunteers were asked instead to rinse with chlorhexidine, a disinfectant widely used in mouthwashes. After three weeks of treatment it emerged that oil pulling performed with sesame oil was able to reduce the bad breath and the bacteria underlying this condition with an action comparable to that of chlorhexidine. Dental plaque and gum inflammation also decreased.
Conclusions and use of oil pulling
Therefore oil pulling is a valid technique, in addition to the toothbrush, dental floss and interdental cleaning brushes, to take care of our oral hygiene. According to research, the most powerful oil for rinsing, counteracting plaque, gingivitis and bacteria is coconut oil, but sesame oil is also an excellent oil. Sunflower oil helps most in case of dry mouth but it takes longer to reduce plaque. After choosing the oil that is right for you, every morning, upon awakening and before breakfast, you can rinse with a tablespoon of oil. Hold the oil in your mouth and let it pass from one part of the mouth to the other for a few minutes, pushing it between and on the teeth and against the gums. Spit without swallowing. If you use coconut oil, it is better to spit into a handkerchief and not in the sink and then throw it directly into the garbage can, to prevent the oil from damaging the pipes, since coconut oil is solid even at temperatures around 30° C.