Since oil pulling turned trendy last year, research has continued to show that it works – and that it works with a variety of different oils, though sesame, as noted before, has been the traditional go-to oil.

But it may be taking jars of coconut oila backseat to coconut oil, about which the news seems to get only better.

The latest comes courtesy of a study just published in the Nigerian Medical Journal, which evaluated the impact of coconut oil pulling on the oral health of young adults. All participants had been diagnosed with plaque induced gingivitis (mild gum disease). After just one week, there was “a statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices” of participants. That improvement continued through the rest of the 30 day testing period.

Of course, one thing this study can’t say is whether a different oil would bring different results. It was a preliminary study, after all. There was no control group. But the authors did speculate on how coconut oil in particular might work – and thus cast some light on one possibility for why it may work better than other oils.

Coconut oil has a high saponification value and is one of the most commonly used oil in making soaps. The soaps produced with coconut oil can lather well and have an increased cleansing action. The lauric acid in the coconut oil can easily react with sodium hydroxide 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.

The significant reduction in gingivitis can be attributed to decreased plaque accumulation and the anti-inflammatory, emollient effect of coconut oil.

And there might be more. Earlier research – such as this study from 2012 – has shown that coconut oil has pronounced antimicrobial effect. A literature review published last year in IJSS Case Reports & Reviews offers a good summary of additional findings:

Recently, results from many studies revealed that the monolaurin, the monoglycerides of lauric acid from coconut oil had antimicrobial activity against various Gram-positive and Gram-negative organisms, including Escherichia vulneris, Enterobcater spp., Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida spp., including Candida albicans, Candida glabrata, Candida tropicali, Candida parapsilosis, Candida stellatoidea and Candida krusei, as well as enveloped viruses. Though the exact antibacterial mechanism of the action of coconut oil is still unclear, it was hypothesized that monolaurin and other medium chain monoglycerides had the capacity to alter bacterial cell walls, penetrate and disrupt cell membranes, inhibit enzymes involved in energy production and nutrient transfer, leading to the death of the bacteria.

That said, while oil pulling is hardly a replacement for regular old brushing and flossing – let alone a cure for all ills, as some have claimed – it’s easy, inexpensive, and it can give a real boost to your home hygiene, especially if you’re in a constant battle with gum disease. We’ve seen patients really turn conditions around once they begin oil pulling.

Give it a try and see what you think! (Need the hows? Here you go!)

Image by Chiot’s Run, via Flickr

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