formed mainly with sesame oil, with available published studies also using sesame seed oil and not coconut. The new study aimed to fill the data gap on coconut oil: "No studies have been done on
the benefits of oil pulling using coco- nut oil to date. So a pilot study was planned to assess the effect of coco- nut oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis."
The study enrolled 60 subjects be-
tween 16-18 years of age with plaque induced gingivitis. No control was used, rather, "the study was designed to com- pare the baseline values and the post intervention values in a single group performing coconut oil pulling in addi- tion to their oral hygiene routine." The subjects were measured for plaque and gingival indices at baseline (day 0), and then on days 1, 7, 15, 30 after the oil pulling was started.
The results were reported as follows: "The mean gingival index was
0.91 and the plaque index was 1.19 at baseline. In comparison to the baseline values both the gingival and the plaque indices substantially re- duced during the period of assess- ment. There was a steady decline in both the plaque index and the gingi- val index values from day 7. The aver- age gingival index score on day 30 was down to 0.401 (from .91) and the plaque index score was 0.385 (from 1.19)"
The results were found to be statisti-
cally significant, indicating that coconut oil is an effective treatment for reducing gingivitis symptoms and plaque build-up on the teeth
How does it work? First, coconut oil is a well-known
anti-microbial agent, and may have direct anti-bacterial properties due, in part, to its lauric acid content. Second, oil pulling results in the emulsification of coconut oil which greatly increases its surface area and once formed on the surface of the teeth reduces plaque adhesion and bacte- rial aggregation, according to the study. Third, coconut oil produces a soap like substance when the saliva mixes with the oil (a process known as saponification).
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The is also why coconut is used in soap- making. According to the study, "The soaps produced with coconut oil can lather well and have an increased cleans- ing action. The lauric acid in the coconut oil can easily react with sodium hydrox- ide in saliva during oil pulling to form sodium laureate, the main constituent of soap which might be responsible for the cleansing action and decreased plaque accumulation."
Why coconut is better than chemical mouthwashes The most commonly used active in- gredient in mouthwashes are chlorhexi- dine, phenol (Listerine) and amine/stan- nous fluoride (Meridol), with chlorhexi- dine being the most effective at control- ling plaque induced gingivitis and inhib- iting bacteria. The problem, however, with chemical mouthwashes is that they have significant, even irreversible adverse side effects:
"Chlorhexidine on long term use alters taste sensation and produces brown staining on the teeth which is very difficult to remove. The mucous membranes and the tongue can also be affected and may be related to the
precipitation of chromogenic dietary factors on to the teeth and mucous membranes. Staining is also associ- ated with the of long term use of Phenol compound and stannous fluoride containing mouth washes."
In contradistinction, the researchers noted coconut oil does not appear to carry these side effects: "In the present study there were no reported alterations in the taste or noticeable staining from coconut oil at the end of 4 weeks."
The study concluded that "Oil pulling
has been proven to be an effective method in reducing plaque formation and plaque induced gingivitis. This prelimi- nary study shows that coconut oil is an easily usable, safe and cost effective agent with minimal side effects which can be used as an adjuvant in oral hygiene main- tenance."
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