In the Cabinet of an ND Student…. Coconut Oil

This may come as a surprise to those of you who have started to use coconut oil as a cooking oil (I admit, I do use it this way from time to time), but my coconut oil lives in my bathroom!  To be honest, I remain partial to olive oil for all things kitchen because its health benefits are incredibly well studied and documented, so why trade it in for something else? As long as you do not exceed the ‘smoking point’ (around 375 F or 190 C for extra virgin) the olive oil’s structural components are still in tact and ready to give your body some biochemical TLC. If you are cooking at temps higher than that, coconut oil can be used as it is stable at higher temperatures.

But enough about olive oil! Why does my coconut oil live in my bathroom? Because I use it kinda like a mouth wash. Yes, you heard me….. oil is now part of my dental hygiene routine and here is why……..

OIL PULLING

Oil pulling is a traditional dental hygiene practice from Indian culture, used to prevent halitosis (bad breath), tooth decay, bleeding/inflamed gums and to soften lips and promote tissue repair in the oral cavity. The traditional method uses sesame seed oil, and the studies to date on oil pulling focus on the use of sesame oil and its effectiveness. However, I have an aversion to sesame oil so I use coconut instead. You can oil pull with many oils – I prefer to use coconut because it contains high levels of lauric acid (an antimicrobial).

First, how in the world does an OIL help CLEAN your gums/teeth? An in-vitro (this means it was not done in a human – but in a test-tube) study performed in 2011 showed that emulsification (oil mixes with your saliva to make a kind of soap) of oil occurs during the act of oil pulling. (1) As this happens it is suggested that an enhanced mechanical cleaning action occurs and the MANY bacteria that reside in the oral cavity can be expelled with the oil.

THE GOOD STUFF (evidence)

Peridontal Bacteria

A 2009 study compared the pre and post oral health of participants with plaque induced gingivitis. Participants were either using 1) the oil pulling method (sesame oil) or 2) chlorhexidine mouthwash (an antiseptic). Both groups saw a statistically significant reduction in pre-study measures. The study concluded that oil pulling reduces plaque and positively modifies gingival scores. (2) Furthermore, a more recent study corroborated these findings, showing that oil pulling was in fact, similar in action, to the antiseptic chlorhexidine in that it is equally effective at reducing halitosis and organisms associated with halitosis. (3)

Enter Streptococcus mutans (yuck). This guy is a bacteria that lives in the human oral cavity and contributes to plaque formation and tooth decay. One study evaluated the effect of oil pulling on Strep mutans and found it reduced the presence of this bacteria in as little as 1-2 weeks. (4)

HOW ITS DONE

  • Use up to 1tbsp of extra virgin coconut oil
  • Allow it to melt in your mouth (its solid at room temp)
  • Now swish it gently in your mouth and between your teeth for 5-20 mins.
  • SPIT OUT in the garbage can. DO NOT SWALLOW as the oil will now contain many bacteria and nasty things you want OUT of your body.

Tips:

  • Start with a smaller amount of oil. I began with about 1tsp.
  • Be gentle – I found my cheeks and jaw got a little sore at first because I was trying too hard to ‘swish’ the oil btwn my teeth. If you’re getting uncomfortable, be more gentle.
  • 20 mins is a long time – start with 3-5 and work your way up.
  • Brush your teeth afterwards
  • I spit mine out in the garbage-can because coconut oil is quite solid at room temp and I don’t want it to clog my pipes.

I was inspired to finally give this a try over the winter break and I must say, I am impressed! I feel like my mouth thanks me everytime I oil pull. I will be honest with you, I only do this about 3 times/week because I do find it challenging on the days I get up early for school.

One last note, I know coconut oil is being touted for various health benefits, among these I have seen it advertised for cardiovascular health, weight loss and possibly indicated for dementia. I have not incorporated it into my diet in a substantial amount because I have not had the time to properly research and see if there are studies supporting such claims. Like I said, I do cook with it on occasion! I COMPLETELY believe in good fats and their importance in our diets, however, I think that (as with all supplements/foods) everything should be used in moderation. I will definitely do a follow up post when I find the time to research more about other possible therapeutic uses of this oil. For now, it stays in my bathroom cabinet!

I would love to hear your feedback – let me know if you try this out and how it goes!

Reminder: this post is not meant to be construed as medical advice, but only as informational and based on personal experience. For more clarification on this please refer to the disclaimer at the bottom of this page. 

References

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21525674

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19336860

3.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21911944

4.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408265

Photo credit 1: Phú Thịnh Co / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit 2: cobalt123 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit 3: wellcome images / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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