When someone mentions coconut oil pulling to you, it might mean something to you, but probably not. It really denoted a process of taking a mouthful of coconut oil, swishing it around in your mouth for ten to 20 minutes, and then spitting it out. The whole purpose of this exercise is to kill bacteria in the mouth, and help to reduce plaque that is harmful to teeth and gums. This is a process that is said to have originated in India where it is a normal occurrence, not only with coconut oil, but with sunflower oil and sesame oil as well.
We all have bacteria that lives in our mouths, and some of it is harmful, and some not. The actual mechanism of how the oil works is that when the oil is swished, it causes the bacteria to “stick” to the oil, and the oil dissolves the bacteria. Each time you rinse your mouth with the oil, you are getting rid of more of the bacteria and plaque in your mouth. Plaque is a substance that forms a film on the outer layer of our teeth, and bacteria will sometimes get out of hand and cause it to form in a thicker manner, which can cause problems.
The Streptococcus Mutans is the bacteria that causes the problems with developing plaque, causes tooth decay and gingivitis, a disease of the gums where the body’s immune system attacks the bacteria that is building the plaque, and it can be very painful. Some plaque in the mouth is normal, but if it gets out of hand it becomes a problem.
Using coconut oil is a good choice because it contains Lauric Acid, which is know to antimicrobial properties, which means it can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi. About half of the fats in coconut oil is antimicrobial.
Coconut oil is fairly tasteless, but at room temperature it is more or less a solid. You can chew it when first putting it into your mouth, and just the heat of that process will melt it into a liquid form so you can rinse with it. When you are done with your coconut pulling, just spit it out and brush your teeth.
There have been studies done which verify the effectiveness of coconut oil pulling. In 2008 a study done with 20 boys who were teenagers, used sesame oil for this process and it was found that there was a similar reduction in bacteria as was experience with the control group who used Chlorhexidine mouthwash. This is an effective substance for a mouthwash, but it can have toxic effects in the long run.
Another study compared the pulling method to Chlorhexidine in helping to cure gingivitis and there were similar results. The Chlorhexidine is much more expensive and toxic than the oils that can be used, so the coconut oil and the other oils are clear winners in this process.
This method with coconut oil is very helpful with halitosis, or bad breath, as halitosis is cause by gasses and chemicals that are given off by mouth borne bacteria. If the bacteria is killed, the halitosis goes away.