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Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Esteban Serino
Oil-Pulling: Just Another Tooth Whitening Myth?
Having tried every trick in the book, I seemed to be failing miserably at finding an organic method to whiten my teeth. I do not make constant visits to the dentist mainly because I am so busy with other daily chores, however I do take my oral hygiene seriously. When I began to notice that my teeth were discoloring I looked up cheap and easy ways to whiten teeth “quickly” and the first article that I came across read “How to Oil Pull.” I experimented with this method for two weeks and would like to share my results, but first we need to understand what our teeth are made of and why they become discolored over time.
What are teeth made of?
According to webmd.com the normal adult mouth has about 32 teeth (not including wisdom teeth). Since the teeth are the hardest substance in the human body the most vital action that teeth assist in for the human body is chewing! Beginning from the outer layer of the tooth, enamel makes up the outer layer of the tooth which is the whitest and hardest part of our teeth. Enamel is essentially derived from calcium phosphate, a rock hard mineral also known as apatite that is number 5 on Moh’s Scale of Hardness. Dentin is the next layer which surrounds the pulp cavity which acts as hard tissue for the tooth. Next follows the pulp of the teeth which is made of soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels. Cementum is a connective tissue that firmly connects our teeth to our gums and jawbone. Lastly, the periodontal ligament acts as a support for the cementum assisting in the connectivity of our teeth to our jaw.
Why do teeth become discolored?
Teeth can become discolored due to stains that cover the outside of the tooth or
a lack of hygiene that is affecting the layers beneath the enamel (outer layer
of the tooth). There are three types of tooth discoloration, extrinsic,
intrinsic, and Age-related tooth discoloration. Extrinsic discoloration is the
staining of the outer layer of your teeth. Tobacco products and specific drinks
and foods (wine and coffee being popular examples) can lead to tooth staining or
extrinsic discoloration. Intrinsic discoloration is when the dentin within the
tooth begins to discolor most commonly due to traumatic experiences that may
have affected your teeth (an accident that permanently affected the growth of
your teeth) or having been exposed to an abundance of fluoride as a child.
Lastly, age-related discoloration in inevitable in the sense that dentin
discolors over time and the enamel on our teeth thins out allowing the
discoloration of the dentin to show.
Can’t I just visit the dentist?
You may be thinking “would it not be easier to get my teeth whitened with the
dentist?” It absolutely would, however if you are like me constant visits to the
dentist may not be possible to accomplish when daily chores overcome your time
or another possible problem, you do not have dental insurance and are short on
cash. These are common reasons to why organic whitening has become so popular.
What is organic whitening?
Organic teeth whitening is a fancy term for “natural teeth whitening” which are methods of whitening your teeth through simple actions that can be performed every day. Brushing your teeth with baking soda is a popular method as well as using hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash. Oil pulling is the newest and most popular of these methods for it effectivity, however is it truly as effective as everyone says it is?
Oil Pulling? What is it?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that uses food-based oils as antibacterial mouthwash. The user must swish the “food-based” oil (notice I stress food-based oil, NOT car oil) in their mouth for 20 minutes on an empty stomach, then spit out the oil into the trash and not the sink for the oil can block the drain. DO NOT swallow the oil for it contains bacteria that you are typically trying to disassociate yourself with. Rinse your mouth out with warm water and proceed to brush and floss as you normally would.
My Experience with Oil-Pulling
I did not follow the instructions exactly, however I still noticed significant results. The way I differed from the instructions above was that I do not floss regularly. I will floss about once every three or four days, but I tried to make up for that fault by swishing with hydrogen peroxide after I got done with the oil pull and brushed my teeth. The food oil I used in my experiment was 100 % LouAna coconut oil that I picked up at Wal-Mart for about $5. If you are not a big fan of coconut or are allergic to coconut I would recommend using sesame oil since it works just as well. Although some oil pullers use this method two to three times daily, I chose to do it only once considering that swishing oil in your mouth for twenty minutes can be difficult especially when the jaw begins to tense up after about five minutes into the swishing. I chose to oil pull at night before going to bed because I believed that I could remove the most bacteria and toxins which had formed in my mouth throughout the day. I also wanted to take a before and after picture which mark my first and last day of oil pulling once a day for two weeks straight.
After having performed this experiment, I did not find the results to be significant enough to promote oil-pulling as a “must do” organic teeth whitener. My teeth in the picture to the right are a tad bit whiter than the before picture on the left. I would have loved the opportunity to visit a dentist after the two week period of this experiment to compare the overall hygiene of my mouth. Oil-pulling does not just act as a teeth whitener as I explained earlier. The oil is used to remove bacteria and toxins from ones mouth also allowing for the removal of plaque and curing gingivitis (bad breath). Would I recommend for people to try oil pulling? Yes, simply in the fact that there is nothing to lose. Who knows, maybe you can get better results that I did.
Photo 1 from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/picture-of-the-teeth
Photo 2 from http://www.lookfordiagnosis.com/mesh_info.php?term=tooth+discoloration&lang=1