Dental hygiene from the baking aisle??

No, I am not completely off my rocker!

I may have just shared my concerns with the potential harm of over exposure to fluoride but I am not going to be recommending brushing with sugar!

I am often asked the question, what is the best mouthwash and I have struggled to answer with a strong conviction. Should you use something with or without alcohol, with or without whitening, iodine or chlorhexidine based? There are an endless variety of options in the dental care aisle and I can understand why it can be so confusing. I too find it a bit overwhelming and when asked, I have just simply responded with the recommendation to use whatever had the best clean feeling. And for those not too concerned about chemical additives and plastic usage, this is still my go to response.

For those of you who are looking for something organic and free of ingredients you can’t pronounce, I am going to share the benefits of something called oil pulling. The practice of swishing with coconut oil dates back some 3000-5000 years. It originated as part of the Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) holistic medical interventions. It is typically performed with about 1 Tbsp of oil (coconut, sesame or sunflower oil) and the user swishes for about 10-20 minutes before spitting out the contents. When I was first introduced to this concept by way of a patient who practiced this daily, it sounded kind of crazy to me (we never learned this in dental school), so I did not pursue any research on the topic.

Fast forward 10-15 years, my eyes have been opened to the deleterious effects of the processed foods we consume, the harmful chemicals used in many of our daily care products and the overuse of plastics that invade almost every aspect of our lives. As I look into the oral/gut biome connection, I have become increasingly concerned that some of the oral rinses may be ‘too effective’ at killing bacteria by eliminating the good bacteria that our bodies need. Oil pulling continuously appeared in many holistic approaches as a way to help maintain the oral biome and assist in tooth and gum health. Unfortunately, as long as oil pulling has existed, there are not many well funded studies to demonstrate exactly how and why the practice can have benefits. Some theorized mechanisms include:

  • Alkaline hydrolysis of the fat leads to a process known as saponification or “soap making”. Soap is an effective cleaning agent by broadening the surface area contact of the oil, increasing the cleansing potential.
  • The viscous nature of the oil inhibits plaque accumulation and adherent bacteria.
  • Antioxidants in the oil provide a detoxification. The fatty acids (lauric acid) of coconut oil have been associated with antimicrobial properties.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is not a substitute for brushing and flossing. It is an adjunctive therapy that can improve the health of the oral tissues. My personal practice is to do this in the morning. I find it easiest to pull while I shower and get ready for work. I have noticed that it has helped to cut down on the staining that accumulates between my regular hygiene visits. After pulling, I scrape my tongue (more on this in a future newsletter) and then brush. I have made my own ‘recipe’ to give the coconut oil more flavor and some acid neutralizing capacity (a topic for another day).

1 cup organic coconut oil
2 tsps of organic baking soda
Several (7-12) drops of peppermint essential oil.
Gently heat the coconut oil to be soft enough to stir.
Stir in completely, the baking soda and peppermint oil.
Allow the mixture to come to room temperature in a storage jar.
Once cooled, cover and keep a spoon to scoop your daily dose needed for oil pulling.

Pulling can be additionally helpful for people suffering symptoms of dry mouth. The oil can help to moisturize the oral tissues. A side benefit of oil pulling is that nasal breathing is practiced for the duration that you swish. If you’re just starting this journey….ease into it!! Try pulling for 30 seconds, then increase the time as you are comfortable. Before you know it, you’ll reach the targeted time and have a cleaner, healthier mouth.

As always, it is an honor to be entrusted with your care. Thank you for allowing my staff and me to be part of your lives. We look forward to seeing you at your next dental visit.


Jessica Bishop, DDS, PA