Oil pulling rivals chlorhexidine in IADR research

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com associate editor

June 20, 2019 -- Oil pulling has been praised as a natural way to boost oral health, but does the science support the hype? The technique may rival modern medicine in at least some cases, according to research presented at the 2019 International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Oil pulling comes from the Ayurveda system of medicine and has been used in India for centuries. The technique involves swishing a tablespoon of oil, typically coconut or sesame, around the oral cavity. This motion allegedly "pulls" bad bacteria from the mouth, a claim scrutinized by the scientific community.

Researchers from India decided to test the traditional Ayurvedic technique against Western medicine in an examiner-blinded randomized clinical trial. In an IADR poster presentation, Shweta Sharda, MDS, a senior research fellow at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Panchkula, described how she and colleagues recruited 75 healthy subjects with plaque-induced gingivitis. One-third of the participants pulled with coconut oil, one-third used sesame oil, and the remaining third rinsed with 0.12% chlorhexidine.

Reduction in plaque and gingivitis scores

After 30 days, all three groups showed improved plaque and gingivitis scores, the researchers found. The group that used sesame oil experienced a 12% reduction in gingivitis and plaque, while the coconut oil and chlorhexidine users experienced a 25% reduction.

"Oil pulling using coconut oil is found to be as effective as chlorhexidine in reducing plaque-induced gingivitis with no noted side effects," Dr. Sharda concluded.

The results suggest there may be some science to support oil pulling. However, studies with more participants will be needed to validate the results, and, as of now, the ADA does not recommend oil pulling for patients.

"Currently, there are no reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth, or improves oral health and well-being," the ADA notes on the Mouth Healthy website. "Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the American Dental Association does not recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice."


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