Many parents have recently asked whether the practice of “oil pulling” is an appropriate regimen to keep their children’s mouths clean and cavity free. Oil pulling is an ancient tradition that involves putting a tablespoon of oil (coconut, sesame, sunflower) into your mouth and swishing it for about 20 minutes. The theory is that the fat in the oil will bind to oral bacteria and plaque, which is then eliminated when the oil is expectorated.
If you search for this practice online, you’ll find plenty of anecdotal “literature” detailing its benefits. We want to emphasize there has been little to no sound scientific research on this practice or how it specifically affects the bacteria known to cause cavities (strep mutans). Existing studies are unreliable due to improper study design, elimination of bias, and lack of controls. It is important to note, there have been multiple reports of children developing pneumonia from accidental aspiration of oil, as well as diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset.
The bottom line is the gold standard in oral hygiene is still brushing twice daily, and using dental floss once a day. To increase protection against tooth decay, fluoride toothpaste is advised. We do not advocate using the practice of oil pulling to replace traditional methods of tooth cleaning in children and encourage those who do choose to use this technique to maintain regular brushing and flossing.
To try to eliminate your child’s exposure to unnecessary chemicals, we recommend choosing an ADA accepted toothpaste such as Hello, Toms of Maine, Crest Cavity Protection, Colgate Kids Cavity Protection, or Squigle Enamel Saver.