Oil Pulling: Does it really work?

Earlier this month The Mercury News declared in bold print:  “Coconut Power…devotees proclaim its health benefits are legion.”   Oil pulling, the practice of pulling, pushing, and sucking coconut oil through your teeth, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.  (Its origins date back to Ayurvedic medicine, some 3,000 years ago.)  Benefits of oil pulling include reducing gingivitis, preventing cavities, decreasing gum and tooth sensitivity, helping get rid of bad breath, and even whitening teeth.  These results are almost too good to be true, which begs the question:  are they true?

First, though, the technique: One tablespoon of refined coconut oil is swished continually through the mouth for 20 minutes.  When the oil turns a milky white, it is time to spit it out (not in the sink or it will clog your pipes), and rinse with water.  This pulling is done daily.  It is not a substitute for brushing and flossing; it is done in addition to your regular oral hygiene regimen.

The theory behind the technique:  Certain oils, especially coconut oil, contain lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antiviral properties.  The oil acts as a magnet to bacteria, whose outer fatty layer wants to stick to the oil itself.  Pulling the oil around the mouth literally pulls the bacteria off the teeth and gums and reduces the number of bugs in the mouth, resulting in a cleaner space.  A secondary effect would be systemic:  fewer bacteria entering the bloodstream would result in less chance for infection in other parts of the body. 

Next time:  So does it work?