Posted on Thursday, April 03, 2014
Recently, there have been many questions with regards to a process that is called "Oil Pulling". It has many claims from preventing and curing cavities, preventing and stopping gingivitis and gum disease, detoxifying the body, and a list of many other claims. I looked into the claims being made and checked the research to see what was available in the US and other countries and this is the information found.
The US government website www.clinicaltrials.gov identifies studies designed to examine the effect of coconut oil in several different medical conditions, however there is nothing on the prevention of gingivitis, gum disease, or cavities.
The US National Library of Medicine search tool "PubMed" identified some studies on sesame oil and coconut oil pulling and oral conditions. The studies appear to be from India and all from the same lead author, Askloan S. Upon reading the studies, there was a very small sample group used (10-20 people) and also appears to have many flaws in the studies for what they claim.
I also contacted the ADA Division of Science Department to ask their opinion on oil pulling. They stated, "The Division of Science has received inquiries on the claims made about coconut oil and dental caries or periodontal disease, either prevention or treatment. We are unable to find substantive clinical studies on which to base an assessment. We continue to follow the published literature closely."
After stating the "scientific" point of view on oil pulling, I would like to give my personal interpretation of the results. There are some things that look somewhat promising for coconut oil in the medical field (rducing water loss in newborns and peripheral arterial disease, etc), but even thoughs studies have a way to go before any sure answers. In dentistry, there does NOT appear to be any clincal studies that show benefits of "oil pulling" to prevent cavities or gum disease. However, if one searches these same areas, one will find numerous studies proving the effects of fluoride as an anti-cavity treatment. In the Cochrane Collabration (http://us.cochrane.org) there are 62 citations for "Fluoride" alone and zero on "oil pulling." Therefore, instead of swishing for 20 minutes with coconut oil that at this time has no definative literature to support its claims why not floss to prevent gingivitis and gum disease and brush for 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste that has been proven through countless studies to be effective.
In conclusion, it is always your choice:
20 minutes of swishing with oil that looks unlikely to help or 2 minutes with a fluoride toothpaste proven to work.