A review of the effects of oil pulling concluded that the ancient practice may indeed have “beneficial effects on oral hygiene” or oral and dental health. I’ve already talked about oil pulling studies and dental health, but what about oral health? That is the subject of my video Oil pulling tested for teeth whitening and bad breath.
Oil pulling has also been tested for bad breath, also known as halitosis, or simply bad breath. A quarter of the world’s population is believed to suffer from it, so the researchers decided to put oil pulling to the test versus chlorhexidine, but how do you test for bad breath? There are all sorts of really fancy methods like “gas chromatography, electronic nose, diamond probes, dark field microscopy,” but they are really expensive or not very reliable. So the researchers opted for the “gold standard”: the test subjects should simply breathe in the examiner’s face.
The researchers also wanted to know what the test subjects thought of their own breath, so they instructed them to lick their own wrist, sniff it after it dried, and then assign the odor from zero (no odor present) to five (extreme) rate rotten stench). Although the subjects themselves felt that their licked wrists smelled better after two weeks of oil pulling, the researchers disagreed that their breath smelled better. You can see the scores at 1:07 in mine Video.
After three weeks, however, there was a significant and comparable improvement in breath odor in both the oil-pulling and chlorhexidine groups. I loved this study because the researchers used a real placebo – in this case colored water – presumably to match the appearance of the chlorhexidine, and also had the subjects rinse for the same amount of time. In the end! We can finally answer the nagging question of whether oil pulling improves plaque and gingivitis because of the oil, or simply because it makes a difference to swirl something in the mouth for so long. Indeed, as you can see in mine at 1:50 Video, the water worked just as well. The researchers saw the same waste whether the test subjects wiped with oil or plain water, suggesting that the plaque is simply destroyed by the prolonged “flushing action”. Yes, oil is maybe five to six times cheaper than chlorhexidine and safer too, but water is cheaper and safer than either.
But can water whiten teeth? Numerous websites have testimonials about oil pulling teeth whitening, but without studies published in the medical literature, most doctors would simply give up on them. Not all doctors, however. Two dental professors in Detroit decided to put it to the test. “Teeth were selected from a stored collection of human extracted teeth” – sounds a bit like a horror film – and then filled into tubes with coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil along with some fake saliva. For two weeks the professors shook the tubes vigorously every day. The result? There is no evidence that oil pulling has any effect on teeth whitening.
Another internet favorite – “DIY whitening exists”[ing] a mixture of strawberry and baking soda, “which apparently refers to Dr. Oz – had a similar result when put to the test. Over-the-counter whitening strips worked, a home whitening system where the dentist sends you away with custom-made spoons worked, as did in-office teeth whitening, but the DIY strawberry and baking soda mix failed. It was as bad as plain water used as a control. You can see the results in mine at 3:05 Video.
What about tooth erosion? In my video Herbal Diet: Dental Health, I’ve talked about that those who eat healthier diets may have healthier gums, but since they tend to consume more acidic foods and drinks like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and fruity teas, they may be at greater risk of becoming part of theirs To erode tooth enamel We should all rinse our mouths out with water after eating or drinking something sour or sour. How about if you rinse with oil every morning? Our body protects itself from tooth erosion by forming a “pellicle” over our teeth – a protective layer mainly made up of proteins from our saliva and some fat. Could oil pulling help prevent erosive damage to our tooth surfaces by strengthening this protective layer in some way? You don’t know until you put it to the test.
The researchers wanted to put the teeth under a microscope afterwards, but that’s difficult when the teeth are still in people’s heads. So they put plates of cow teeth in the subjects’ mouths, let them sit there until that protective layer developed, and then they put oil around the teeth – or not, in the control group – and then they took them out and exposed them to the acid out .
As you can see in mine at 4:43 Videoif you expose teeth to acid without putting them in your mouth, significant demineralization occurs within two minutes, 120 seconds. The acid releases calcium from the teeth. But if you let the same teeth sit in your mouth for a few minutes before exposing them to the acid, there is less erosion. Then what happens if you put it back in your mouth and draw in some oil? Is there even less erosion? No, there is more. It’s like the oil pulling has undermined the protective layer. In fact, that’s exactly what the researchers saw under the microscope, as you can see in mine for yourself at 5:20 a.m. Video. The researchers suspect that the oil actually uses up the membrane and “affects its protective properties”.
This article covers the third video in a four-part series on oil pulling. If you missed the first two, see Does Oil Pulling Help With Cancer? and Benefits of oil pulling for plaque and gingivitis.
For the final video in this series and the final nail in the coffin of oil pulling, see The Risks of Oil Pulling.
How can we protect our tooth enamel? See:
Michael Greger, MD
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