The recent focus on healthy eating and plant-based diets has meant the sales of coconut oil have soared. People are using it on their skin, in their hair, in their food. However, now, because of its reported antibacterial properties, others are using coconut oil for the practice of ‘oil pulling’: a way of trying to improve oral health.

While it is a new trend for many, oil pulling has actually been around for ages – it is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique. It involves swilling a tablespoon of oil around the mouth for approximately twenty minutes, with the intention of detoxifying the body and is done on an empty stomach. Afterwards, the mouth is rinsed with salt water.

The basic idea behind this is that the fat within the oil attracts the microorganisms which live within the mouth. It is worth noting that those who do oil pulling sometimes use sunflower or olive oil. However, coconut oil, as well as having antibacterial properties, also contains Vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant and has anti-fungal properties.

Is it worth trying? There simply has not been enough research into oil pulling to reach a definitive conclusion on whether or not it is helpful. Due to the above mentioned properties, it is unlikely to hurt us – but there is the risk of an allergic skin reaction so you should try a patch test before putting it in your mouth. What is absolutely essential is that oil pulling is not used as a substitute for brushing and flossing as normal. To ensure that you are keeping a good oral hygiene routine, you need to be brushing and flossing thoroughly twice a day and regularly visiting the dentist. Neglecting this for any alternative practice without consulting your dentist puts you at risk of dental problems so must be avoided.

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