Oil pulling is put head-to-head against chlorhexidine mouthwash for oral and dental health measures.
What are the potential risks and benefits of the ancient oil pulling practice when making oil swam or “pulled” between the teeth for about 15 minutes and then spat out? There are wild, unsubstantiated claims made on the internet and even in the medical literature, including the British Dental Journal. I can believe oil pulling is a good exercise for your tongue and cheek muscles, but it seems a little crazy to say “it heals cells, tissues and all organs at the same time”. Talk about ironic!
One respondent in the British Dental Journal expressed “Surprise” when you read that “waving oil around your mouth … can effectively treat meningitis, heart and kidney disease, hormonal imbalances in women and chronic diseases like cancer, AIDS, etc.” kind of, but to get into evidence-based medicine we need something called something proof “Without being distracted by the illusory effects attributed to them by their advocates.” This is particularly relevant when other respondents divided her experience with a case of severe inflammatory gingivitis that worsened after oil pulling. However, after the patient stopped drawing the oil, her gingivitis improved. The researchers felt that some of the oil was stuck under her gums, which made their condition worse. Regardless, maybe people should wait to pull oil until we actually have evidence.
Fortunately, as I discuss in my video Benefits of oil pulling for plaque and gingivitis, recently the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford Oxford compiled all controlled studies. Controlled? Why is it so important for studies to have control groups? Without a control group to compare the results with, the reported reductions in gingivitis and plaques during oil pulling may simply be due to the dentists ‘shoulders looking over the subjects’ shoulders and periodic checkups having their game with brushing and floss increased.
At 1:52 in mine Video, I am presenting the kind of study we need. Researcher watched no changes before and after in the control group, but there was a decrease in plaque and gingivitis scores in the oil pulling group. It is more like that! Okay, so there seems to be an effect, but what do these values mean? When testing a new drug, it’s not enough just to show that it works better than nothing or better than a sugar pill. Ideally, you want to know if the new drug works better than the best drug on the market right now for the same condition. Why else a new therapy? Because of this, drug companies are often forced to use so-called active controls and directly compare their drug to the leading drug, rather than playing it off with a placebo. In the study just mentioned, oil pulling was compared to doing nothing. How about oil pulling compared to chlorhexidine?
Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic chemical used in medicinal mouthwashes, is considered the “gold standard” in the fight against plaque, tooth decay and gingivitis. Talk about a head-to-head fight! What happened when researchers studied oil pulling against chlorhexidine and measured the ability of each treatment lower the number of caries-forming bacteria on human teeth? As you can see in mine at 3:07 Video, researchers found that chlorhexidine acted faster, causing significant plaque regression in just 24 hours, while it took a week for the oil pulling to really start working. In two weeks, however, the oil pulling can end just as effective as the gold standard as you can see at 3:18 in mine Video. In fact, they seemed to work so similarly that the skeptic in me wondered: A moment. Maybe it’s just the physical act of swinging that is upsetting the plaque?
If only the researchers had included a third group that rinsed with clean water. They did! And? Rinsing with water had no effect.
Well, it wasn’t exactly fair. The researchers let the oil pulling group puff for ten minutes while the other two groups popped for just a minute. For all we know, a ten minute rinse with plain water can be as good as a rinse with oil.
Furthermore, one could look at this and argue that chlorhexidine actually worked ten times better than oil, as it did the same effect a tenth of the time. Chlorhexidine has however, side effects. In fact, it has potentially serious side effects, such as painful peeling, which is a peeling of the mucous membranes in your mouth, as well as discoloration of the teeth or tongue that you see at 4:11 in my. can see Video (But be warned as they are not beautiful sights).
So, “oil pulling” has certain advantages over conventional mouthwashes such as not chemical, alcohol-free, inexpensive and stain-free, but the effectiveness …[is] unclear. “Hold on. Oil pulling has been shown to be significant drops the number of tooth decay-causing bacteria. Yes, but does that lead to less actual voids, which is really important to us? It wasn’t studied. Researchers have Pair Oil pulling versus chlorhexidine for plaque and gingivitis, and found that both could help to a similar extent. And plaque-induced gingivitis is a reasonable predictor of future dental health explanatory Oxford Center for Evidence-Based Medicine concludes that “oil pulling can have beneficial effects” on oral and dental health.
THE CENTRAL THESES
- The age-old practice of oil pulling, rinsing, or “pulling” cooking oil between the teeth before spitting it out has been called an effective treatment for meningitis, heart and kidney disease, and chronic diseases such as cancer and AIDS with no scientific evidence.
- Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic chemical used in medicated mouthwashes, is considered the gold standard in fighting plaque, tooth decay, and gingivitis, but it has potentially serious side effects, including painful peeling of the oral mucosa.
- When oil pulling took on chlorhexidine, the researchers found that although chlorhexidine worked faster than oil pulling in reducing plaque, oil pulling can be as effective as the antiseptic chemical by two weeks.
- Rinsing alone may have caused the plaque disorder, but the oil pulling group swam for ten minutes compared to just one minute for the chlorhexidine and water-only groups, so we cannot be sure whether we will be in plain water for ten minutes rinsing can be as effective as rinsing with oil.
- In contrast to chlorhexidine, oil pulling is chemical and alcohol-free, less expensive and appears to be as effective as the antiseptic for plaque and gingivitis.
This article covers the second video in a four-part series on oil pulling. If you missed the first video, see Does Oil Pulling Help With Cancer?.
Oil pulling tested for teeth whitening and bad breath is the third in line.
I do Not Recommend oil pulling and explain why in the last video in the series, The Risks of Oil Pulling.
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Michael Greger, MD
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