coconut oilDoes oil pulling actually do what is claimed? Read on to find out, and thanks for visiting us at Personal Endodontics of Troy, MI. 

What do you tell patients who ask about unconventional oral health routines? That scenario is playing out with increasing frequency in regard to “oil pulling,” an oral health routine with ancient roots that is popping up all over health blogs, magazines, and the occasional celebrity interview.

Oil-pulling therapy involves swishing oil, usually coconut or sesame, in the mouth for as long as 10 to 20 minutes and then spitting it out. It is part of a traditional alternative medicine called Ayurveda that originated in India. The roots of oil pulling go deep, and it is referenced in theCharaka Saṃhitā, a foundational text of Ayurveda that dates back to 300-500 CE.

The purported benefits are numerous, including whiter teeth and the reduction of halitosis, Streptococcus mutans, and plaque-induced gingivitis. The man behind many of these studies, who is arguably the most prolific oil-pulling researcher in the world, cautioned that data supporting its effectiveness are lacking — but he also expressed confidence in its viability.

“I would say there are not enough research and proper clinical trials in this regard,” wrote Sharath Asokan, BDS, MDS, PhD, a professor at the department of pediatric dentistry at Meenakshi Ammal Dental College in Chennai, India, in an email toDrBicuspid.com. “Within limited available literature and as a person working in this area for close to a decade, I am convinced this works.”

For now, the ADA has no opinion on the matter and responded to interview requests by saying that it cannot comment on oil pulling because additional research is needed, and provided a link to its general Policy Statement on Unconventional Dentistry. “With the explosion of unrefereed information about oral health issues made possible by the Internet, the Association believes that the need for systematic evaluation of diagnostic and treatment efficacy and safety to assist practitioners in responding to patient inquiries is greater than ever,” the statement reads.

In Dr. Asokan’s opinion, “the sudden focus is probably because people are health-conscious and prefer nature and natural remedies like Ayurveda.” He also added that DrBicuspid.com‘s interview asking him about oil pulling was the third from the U.S. in the last two months.

While swishing oil in one’s mouth is highly unlikely to be harmful, does it have any real benefits? As he stated previously, Dr. Asokan believes so — but when used properly. “I am convinced it is a preventive strategy and not a therapeutic one,” he explained.

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