Dr. Kurthy, Founder of KöR Whitening, Talks About Coconut Oil Pulling to Whiten Your Teeth
Recently I was asked to comment on this article. My response…“Coconut Oil Pulling will whiten your teeth? Really? Absolutely not!”
Many people seek natural remedies, simply assuming that anything natural is good, and anything man-made is bad. Well, a rattlesnake bite is natural. Hemlock is a plant, but it’s so poisonous that it can kill you if you eat it. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other examples.
My belief is that people should simply look at whatever compound, material, drug, etc. can do for you, regardless of if it’s natural or not, compared to any downside of that compound/material/drug. But the problem is that I’m a scientist with a lot of science background and training. Most people simply have very little, if any, scientific knowledge. So of course, they’re at the mercy of what they’re told by others, most of whom also know virtually nothing about science, but make it seem like they do.
When it comes to whitening teeth with coconut oil pulling, here’s what I’ve found. Most of the consumer public reacts this way: If enough people say it, it MUST be true! Especially when those people say things like, “It’s been found that….”. What does that mean? To me, as a scientist, that would mean that scientific studies have proven something. But what these authors really mean is that they’ve read other articles where people make a claim, so they feel they can say, “It’s been found that…”.
The bottom line is, it appears one guy “just threw out there” that coconut oil pulling whitens teeth. So the next author after that, after having read the first article, also listed whitening teeth as one of the benefits. And as more and more articles are written they simply copy what others have said. So now every article says that coconut oil pulling whitens teeth. But get this…NONE of these articles say HOW coconut oil pulling supposedly whitens teeth.
Let’s start out by talking about how oil pulling, in general, is claimed to work to remove bacteria. You’ve heard the statement, “Oil and water don’t mix.”. Of course, we’ve all seen that to be true. Just try to wash the oil off your hands with water. It doesn’t work. But if you add soap, you now can remove the oil. Why is that?
Well, a soap molecule has one end that is water-based, and the other end is oil based. So the soap will combine with both water and oil, so this is why water and soap will remove oil from your hands. It’s simple science.
Just like animals have skin, bacterial cells have cell walls (cell membranes) that have a high content of lipid or fat (oil). Supposedly, when you coat these cells with oil (most commonly coconut oil), the coconut oil will closely stick to the oil in the bacteria membranes. And by swishing, the back and forth movement of the oil in your mouth is claimed to physically “pull” the bacteria off your teeth and gums. That’s where the term oil “pulling” came from.
From a purely scientific point of view, there is enough scientific reasoning here that maybe…just maybe…a properly conducted study may show some evidence of this really happening to one degree or another. But what does the removal of bacteria have to do with whitening your teeth?
I suppose if there is any stain floating among the bacteria, the stain may be removed at the same time, along with the bacteria. So if you don’t own a toothbrush or floss, maybe oil pulling might very, very slightly help in removing a stain. (by the way… that’s a joke) My point is that removal of un-attached stain from your teeth is far, far more effectively and quickly performed with a toothbrush and dental floss.
Probably the cutest, and most honest, article I came across was published by Vogue Magazine. One of their reporters did her own little test of coconut oil pulling. The Vogue author describes herself by saying, “…few things get my heart racing like the words ‘natural’ and ‘remedy.’ I am the kind of undercover New York new-ager who starts my day with a shot of chlorophyll, uses deodorant (in place of aluminum-containing antiperspirant)…”. But when all was said and done, this Vogue author ended her article saying, “As for the coconut oil, it’s not a total waste: I’ll be saving it for the bath instead.”