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Can ‘Coconut Oil Pulling’ Whiten Your Teeth Naturally?

Can ‘Coconut Oil Pulling’ Whiten Your Teeth Naturally?

Yellowing teeth are a natural consequence of aging, eating, and drinking. Can you lighten the yellow discoloration of your teeth naturally? The answer is yes! I’m going to give you ‘the good news’ and a little lesson in tooth yellowing from the non-dentist perspective of a dermatologist. Why is a dermatologist talking about yellow teeth? Because I’m getting old. I drink coffee, tea, and red wine, as well as eat lots of fruits and veggies that stain teeth. Yellow teeth is not something I want, so I’ve done what I can over the years to fight the process.
  1. I go to my dentist every 6 months – usually.
  2. I use a Sonicare tooth brush and whitening toothpastes.
  3. I’ve tried my dentist's dental whitening system.
The peroxide-based bleach from this system made my teeth sensitive, but helped a little. It all works, but my teeth are more yellow than I want - I'm fussy and I want them white. This month, I’ve been on a writing sabbatical in Australia. My friend Lorraine who lives here told me that she was told at "a health farm" (love the Aussie lingo, the translation is "a spa") that coconut oil pulling would whiten teeth. The person she learned this from had "the whitest teeth you have ever seen." I had to explore this idea. It turns out the naturally anti-microbial lauric acid in coconut may be able to whiten teeth. I gave it a try and oh yes, this method works! After swishing coconut oil in my mouth for 2 days, my pearly whites were indeed pearly white. I want to share what I learned with my readers.

The Common Reasons Your Teeth is Yellow:

The outer color of your teeth is due to a thin layer of white enamel over a yellow thicker layer of dentin. Everyone’s teeth starts out with slight color differences in their enamel. Then, the enamel thins and changes with age. Dentin gets yellower with age and shows through the enamel more. You can’t do much about that. This is called intrinsic discoloration. The good news is that there is also extrinsic discoloration that plays into the yellowing of your teeth. Coconut oil seems to help that! Extrinsic yellowing occurs based on what you put in your mouth. Common causes of extrinsic tooth yellowing, according to Professor Wikipedia, include:
  1. Poor dental hygiene with plaque, calculus, and bacteria.
  2. Tar from smoking.
  3. Foods rich in carotenoids or xanthanoids (these are good for you!) like carrots etc.
  4. Drinks like coffee, tea, red wine, cola and sports drinks.
Based on Lorraine's 'health farm' experience, I gave oil pulling a try. It definitely freshens the mouth and whitens teeth based on my experiment. There are also claims that oil pulling cures other maladies like heart disease, inflammation, acne etc. I can’t comment on that, but it does whiten teeth and freshen the mouth nicely. Wanting to know more about coconut oil pulling, I asked Professor Google and was led down a fascinating 'rabbit hole' of information on oil pulling.

Facts about Oral Oil Pulling

Dental research from India shows that 'oil pulling' reduces
  1. bad breath.
  2. mouth bacteria associated with tooth decay and gingivitis.
Below are interesting quotes from the first reference describing oil pulling.
The concept of oil pulling is not new. It has been discussed in the Ayurvedic text Charak…It was Dr. Karach who popularized the concept of oil pulling in the 1990s in Russia. Oil pulling therapy can be done using edible oils like sunflower or sesame oil.  For oil pulling therapy, a tablespoon (teaspoon for young children) of sesame (or any edible oil – I recommend coconut oil) oil is taken in the mouth and sipped, sucked, and pulled between the teeth for 10-15 min. The viscous oil turns thin and milky white. It is claimed that the swishing activates enzymes. The oil should not be swallowed as it contains bacteria and toxins. Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy to prevent tooth decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, and cracked lips, and for strengthening the teeth, gums, and jaws.
Also interesting is that most of the microbes in the mouth are covered with a fatty membrane. According to Chicago cosmetic dentist, Dr. Jessica T. Emery (founder and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft), these microbes adhere to the oil you are swishing in your mouth. It is another big reason NOT to swallow the oil! I can tell you as a western trained allopathic physician, oil pulling is a nice practice to add to the litany of other self-care tasks on our to-do list. Fascinating!

Oil Pulling for Better Oral Hygiene and Whiter Teeth

  1. Brush your teeth
  2. Swish 1 TBS of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. I swished it around my teeth and tongue and gargled with it (that was harder).
  3. Spit out the oil when you are done – don’t spit it into your plumbing though!!! Coconut oil will turn solid and you will eventually get to invite the plumber over. Spit the now milky and microbe-rich oil into a plastic bag and chuck it in the trash.
  4. Rinse your mouth with warm water before you drink anything.
  5. Repeat 3 to 4 times a week.
Some sources say to brush your teeth after pulling, but I don’t; I do it in the morning or before bed. My pearly whites are now whiter than they ever were with a dental bleaching system. I also have geographic tongue (thanks dad for the genes for that one) and it is better and more comfortable too. Based on my little experiment with coconut oil pulling, I’m a fan! If you try it, tell me how it goes for you. References:
  1. Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu MS, Rathna PV, Emmadi P; Raghuraman; Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7.
  2. Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian J Dent Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;20(1):47-51.
  3. Asokan S1, Kumar RS, Emmadi P, Raghuraman R, Sivakumar N. Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2011 Apr-Jun;29(2):90-4. doi: 10.4103/0970-4388.84678.
  4. How dental professionals can respond to 'oil pulling' patients, DentistryIQ, March 21, 2014