Most Americans Have Gum Disease … Which Can Lead to Other Diseases
The New York Times notes that gum disease is rampant:
More than 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease, but according to a major survey, only 60% have any significant knowledge about the problem.
Scientists note that gum disease is associated with host of other diseases, as well.
The Mayo Clinic notes:
Your oral health might affect, be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
- Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.
- Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
- Pregnancy and birth. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
WebMD points out:
“There are a lot of studies that suggest that oral health, and gum disease in particular, are related to serious conditions like heart disease,” says periodontist Sally Cram, DDS, a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.
One study found that the presence of common problems in the mouth, including gum disease (gingivitis), cavities, and missing teeth, were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.
Experts know that bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream through the gums. These same bacteria have been found clumped in artery plaques. So one theory is that these bacteria stick to the fatty plaques in the bloodstream, directly contributing to blockages.
Columbia University Medical Center also found that gum disease is associated with lowered brain function, at least in elderly people.
The New York Times notes that gum disease is associated with diabetes and perhaps autoimmune diseases.
Modern Science Proves that Ancient Trick Works
Numerous studies show that the 5,000 year old Ayurvedic practice of oil pulling (i.e. swishing with certain vegetable oils) works to prevent gum disease.
How does it work?
“Oral bacteria are fat-loving. Swishing the oil around your mouth attracts the bad bugs to help pull it off of surfaces,” says Jessica Emery, a doctor of dental medicine and owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft in Chicago.
Similarly, Men’s Health notes (May 2015, p. 20):
Think of oil as a magnet for microbes, says Lyla Blake-Gumbs, M.D., M.P.H., a staff physician and assistant professor of integrative medicine at Cleveland Letter College of Medicine. Oral bacteria contain fats that latch on to the fats in the oil, causing the bugs to be pulled out of your mouth when you spit into the sink.
A study suggested another way that it works:
There are clear indications of possible saponification and emulsification process, which enhances its mechanical cleaning action.
“Saponification” means “soap-making”. Because vegetable oils have long been used to make soap, this means that swishing vegetable oil around in your mouth for a while creates soap … which acts to mechanically but gently scrub out your mouth.
Another study suggested another potential mechanism of oil pulling:
The possible mechanism of action of this oil therapy could be that the viscosity of the oil probably inhibits bacterial adhesion and plaque co aggregation.
Studies show that oil pulling can:
- Reduce cavity-causing bacteria (see this, this, this and this). One study found, “There was a remarkable reduction in the total count of bacteria. The process of oil-pulling reduced the susceptibility of a host to dental caries.”
Huffington Post reports:
[Oil pulling] can be a good way to supplement recommended practices like tooth brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist, says Michelle Hurlbutt, RDH, MSDH, an associate professor of dental hygiene at Loma Linda University in Southern California.
“[Oil pulling] should not be used to treat oral disease such as gum disease or tooth decay,” Hurlbutt told The Huffington Post. “It’s more of a preventive rinse that could be used adjunctively with your regular mouthcare routine.”
Hurlbutt found evidence of its effectiveness after recently completing a small pilot study that showed oil pulling can decrease the bacteria associated with dental cavities. She took a group of 45 healthy young adults who had high levels of mouth bacteria and were not currently taking antibiotics or using antimicrobial toothpaste.
Hurlbutt then instructed them to oil pull daily for two weeks and stop on the third week. The participants were divided into three groups according to what they were swishing around their mouths: sesame oil, which is the oil studied most for oral health; coconut oil, which has gained contemporary fans for its anti-microbial properties; and regular old water, the control group.
She then measured levels of Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria associated with a high risk of cavities, throughout the two-week oil pulling period and again after the third week. She found that the sesame oil group experienced a five-fold decrease in the bacteria as compared to the water group, while the coconut oil group experienced a two-fold decrease. But after the daily oil pulling stopped, levels of the bad bacteria began to creep up again.
Results can be expected in a few months, [Amala Guha, assistant professor of immunology and medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center] says, with benefits such as reduced plaque, cavity prevention and stronger gums for individuals who already have a healthy mouth. For the person with plaque buildup, she recommends a teeth cleaning first for faster results.
DOs and DONTs of Oil Pulling
Studies show that sesame oil or coconut oil work best for oil pulling. Both oils have the right properties and textures to be effective. They also contain ingredients that are good for your gums: sesame oil has a lot of vitamins and minerals, and coconut oil contains a natural antimicrobial substance called lauric acid.
Buy cold-pressed oil. That doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg … for example Trader Joe’s sells cold-pressed coconut oil. (If it’s solid at room temperature, just let it melt in your mouth before you start swishing.) And there are many sources of cold-pressed sesame oil (here’s one example).
Swish gently for 10-20 minutes (don’t swallow), then spit out into a cup or the trash (don’t spit coconut oil in a drain, as it might clog your drain). Rinse with water, and then brush your teeth.
There are numerous videos showing you how to do oil pulling.
Note: It is vital that you also brush and floss well, and see your dentist regularly. If you have gum problems, see a periodontist. Oil-pulling should NOT replace these basic hygiene measures … merely supplement them.
Also, we have no idea about whether oil pulling does anything besides improve oral health. While there are numerous claims on the Internet, we have not researched any of the other claims about conditions which oil pulling improves … and doubt that it is a cure-all.
We are not health professionals, and this does not constitute medical advice.
For more fascinating health tips, see: