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Deciding Between Oil Pulling Vs. Mouthwash for Optimal Oral Health

Jan 04, 2023

Teeth Cleaning

Deciding Between Oil Pulling Vs. Mouthwash for Optimal Oral Health

While everyone knows the benefits of brushing your teeth and flossing, mouthwash can also help in maintaining good oral hygiene. Interestingly, the trend of oil pulling has emerged with claims of improved oral health. However, which option is better: oil pulling or mouthwash use? Read on to learn more.

What is oil pulling, and how does it work?

Ayurveda or traditional health practices from India are often credited with developing oil pulling. It’s known to freshen breath, whiten teeth, lower the number of pathogenic oral bacteria, and considerably improve oral health. The technique involves swishing oil (usually extra-virgin coconut oil or other essential oils) in the mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes and then spitting it out.

Benefits of oil pulling

Harmful bacteria in the mouth are usually coated in fat-based membranes. The essential oils used for oil pulling bind to the fats in bacterial membranes to eradicate them as effectively as mouthwashes. Moreover, since oil pulling helps eliminate bacteria, it can prevent gingivitis (gum disease) and tooth decay.

Oral bacterial organisms can also affect the rest of the body. Therefore, by eliminating bacteria and their harmful toxins from the mouth, oil pulling can aid in the prevention of:

  • cardiovascular diseases
  • endocarditis (inflammation of the heart’s chambers and walls)
  • pregnancy-related complications

Moreover, coconut oil (and other essential oils) can remove surface stains and help whiten teeth.

Some other oil pulling benefits include:

  • Halitosis or bad breath prevention
  • Overall enhanced oral health
  • Complete detoxification of mouth and teeth

Why do we use mouthwash?

As a bactericidal antiseptic solution, mouthwashes can freshen the breath, give a clean feeling, as well as aid in removing the pathogenic bacteria that form plaque.

Choosing between oil pulling vs. mouthwash

The choice between oil pulling vs. mouthwash is an important one. The purpose of mouthwash is to kill bacteria in the mouth, gums, and teeth by rinsing with a bacteria-killing antiseptic solution, whereas oil pulling using essential oils aids in cleansing the oral cavity.

Mouthwashes are associated with side effects such as:

  • Canker sore irritation- The elevated alcohol content in mouthwashes can irritate mouth sores
  • Oral cancer- The relationship between oral cancer and mouthwashes is yet debatable and lacks a clear scientific answer
  • Short-lived freshness- As mouthwashes do not eliminate halitosis-causing bacterial organisms, mouthwash-induced freshness does not usually last long

So far, oil pulling has not been associated with any adverse side effects, except for possible allergies to coconut oil and essential oils and upset stomachs after swallowing oil. So while deciding between oil pulling vs. mouthwash, make sure to consider the side effects of both.

What do dentists recommend?

The effectiveness of oil pulling has not been scientifically proven, therefore dental professionals recommend exercising caution. Even though there are no particular adverse effects of oil pulling, one may experience side effects from essential oil usage. Note that oil pulling cannot replace standardized dental hygiene practices such as regular brushing and flossing, which are essential for keeping the mouth healthy.

Does oil pulling whiten teeth?

There is no concrete evidence to support teeth whitening by oil pulling, although researchers have reported that oil pulling for teeth whitening using essential oils has oral health advantages. Oils possess antibacterial properties, and oil pulling can transiently increase saliva production, thereby reducing plaque formation, which, in turn, may aid in teeth whitening.

However, the lack of adequate scientific information on oil pulling for teeth whitening indicates that professional teeth whitening services should be prioritized to whiten teeth in a safe, effective, and thorough manner.

Oil pulling for tooth pain, reduced plaque, and gingivitis

By eliminating harmful bacteria from the mouth, oil pulling using essential oils can reduce plaque formation and prevent gingivitis. A study comprising 60 adults reported that oil pulling with coconut oil for 10 minutes daily significantly lowered Streptococcus mutans counts in saliva within two weeks, compared to distilled water. As the main contributor to tooth decay and cavities, this bacteria naturally forms in your mouth and can build up on the surface of your teeth.

Another study conducted on children showed coconut oil to be as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash in lowering oral S. mutans counts.

Gingivitis occurs when the immune system begins to combat plaque-forming bacteria. A study conducted in 2009 comprising 20 male adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis comparatively assessed the effects of sesame oil pulling and chlorhexidine mouthwash. Both mouthwash and oil pulling effectively reduced gingivitis.

Another one-month study comprising 60 adolescents showed that oil pulling using coconut oil significantly lowered the occurrence of gingivitis. However, oil pulling for tooth pain is a subject requiring further research.

How to oil pull?

Oil pulling is a remarkably easy technique that involves swishing about one tablespoon (15 mL) of coconut oil or other essential oils in the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, after which the oil is spat out.

The technique is usually followed by tooth brushing and must not be performed forcefully. The debate on oil pulling vs. mouthwash lacks sufficient scientific evidence and needs future studies.

When to seek medical help

In case you have dental concerns that go beyond basic oral hygiene, contact us today at Smile Arizona Dentistry. We look forward to helping you out with all your dental needs.

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