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While conventional dentistry is pouring chemicals into our mouths, ancient Ayurveda has been preventing gingivitis and periodontal disease with natural oils for thousands of years.
Ayurveda has been recommending oil pulling and gum massage for thousands of years to help prevent gum disease and plaque build up.
Yet the chemical industry is convinced their antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses are the answer. The heck with 'superstitious' ancient therapies – they say.
Science is proving out ancient therapy
Modern medical research is now proving the oldest continuous medicine was not wrong about oil pulling or gum massage.
Illustrating the latter, researchers from India's Manipal College of Dental Sciences conducted a clinical study of 32 people. The researchers divided the patients into four groups.
All of the patients were instructed to massage their gums for 10 minutes per day, using their index finger, rubbing each side of the gums within the mouth equally.
For four weeks, one group massaged their gums using olive oil. Another group massaged their gums using coconut oil. Another group massaged using sesame oil. And another group – the control group – massaged their gums using chlorhexidine gel, a commonly-prescribed antiseptic mouth rinse.
The study was triple-blinded, and tested patients between 18 years old and 55 years old.
Prior to the commencement of the four weeks of gum massage, each patient's levels of oral health were measured, beginning with their oral counts of Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus bacteria. They were also tested for plaque and gingivitis levels.
After the four weeks of gum massage therapy, the researchers retested each of the patients for the same measures.
Gum massage with oil reduces bacteria
They found that S. mutans bacteria counts were significantly reduced among all the groups, but the sesame oil group's S. mutans counts were lower - reducing S. mutans counts from 5.47 (log-10 CFU) to 3.06, for a 2.41 average reduction. The olive oil gum massage group experienced a 2.21 reduction in S. mutans while the coconut oil gum massage group had a 2.06 reduction.
In comparison, the chlorhexidine gel massage group had an average of 1.76 reduction in S. mutans counts.
The sesame group also showed a slightly greater reduction in Lactobacillus counts, with the chlorhexidine group coming in a close second, followed closely by the other two oil groups.
Plaque scores and gingival scores came in very close among all four groups. The differences were insignificant – indicating that massaging with any of the three oils were similar in their ability to significantly reduce signs of plaque and gingivitis.
However, the reductions in plaque scores were slightly greater among the three oil groups - greater than the chlorhexidine group – with the coconut oil group coming out on top.
What are the Plaque Index and Gingival Index?
The plaque index consists of a measurement of plaque on the tooth surfaces and plaque on the gum margin – with the lower scores meaning less plaque, graded from zero to three.
The Gingival score relates to levels of inflammation among the gums. A zero is no inflammation, one is mild inflammation but no bleeding, two is moderate inflammation with some redness and bleeding upon probing, and three is severe inflammation with swelling and bleeding when even gently probed.
On the Gingival score, the sesame oil group showed the greatest reduction of scores - with a 1.14 reduction in scores (from 1.85 to .71). By comparison, the chlorhexidine group showed only a .80 reduction – from 1.56 to .76.
The Effects of Gum Massage
Gum massage accomplishes two general things:
1) It disperses the oil - antibacterial agent - throughout the gums and gum margins.
2) It stimulates circulation within gum tissues, which allows the immune system to fight the infection.
The Evidence Is In
This study proved that gum massage using traditional oils can significantly reduce counts of S. mutans and other dental decay producing bacteria – at least as good if not better than the gold standard of prescription antiseptic mouth rinses, chlorhexidine.
The second significant result here is that sesame oil – the primary oil recommended in thousands of years of Ayurvedic practice to do both oil pulling and oil massage – beat chlorhexidine in all four measures – bacteria reduction of two types, reduction of plaque and the reduction of signs of gingivitis.
Antibacterial effects of the oils
All three oils were able to significantly reduce bacteria counts, reduce inflammation and plaque among the subjects, as least as good if not better than chlorhexidine. What makes these oils so antiseptic?
In their discussion, the researchers hypothesized that the effect was likely a combination of two mechanisms – one being the oils' reduce the ability of the bacteria to adhere to the teeth and gum surfaces.
The other effect – which they referred to as saponification – was that alkali hydrolysis occurred within the mouth as the oils were being massaged. This is similar to the process of making soap – which also tends to inhibit bacteria through its alkali emulsification.
Oil pulling effectiveness confirmed in other research
Another study from India – this from the Meenakshi Ammal Dental College – specifically studied oil pulling with sesame oil, comparing it to swishing with chlorhexidine.
In another triple-blind study, the researchers tested 20 teenage boys. For two weeks, half of the group practiced oil pulling with sesame oil and the other half swished with chlorhexidine.
The boys were tested for S. mutans counts before, after one day, two days, a week and two weeks – at the end.
At every test, the researchers found the oil pulling with sesame oil significantly reduced counts of S. mutans, equivalent to the reductions found with chlorhexidine.
No side effects in oil pulling
While both the oil and the chlorhexidine can significantly reduce bacteria counts of S. mutans – the bacteria most responsible for periodontal disease – chlorhexidine can come with some unwanted side effects, including discoloration of the teeth enamel, a chemical taste in the mouth, and most importantly, the potential of creating resistant strains of bacteria.
Chlorhexidine resistance among bacteria is not a new subject. Several studies have found chlorhexidine-resistant bacteria of varying types among hospital facilities and patients that utilize the disinfectant with soap.
Plus, it is a chemical - and most synthetic chemicals produce oxidative radicals in the body.
Furthermore, chlorhexidine will also wipe out the healthy probiotic species of bacteria in our mouth that help protect our teeth and gums from S. mutans and other destructive bacteria.
After all the good and the bad guys (bacteria) are wiped out, it is usually the more destructive species that emerge the fastest.
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Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu MS, Rathna PV, Emmadi P; Raghuraman; Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7.
Brooks SE, Walczak MA, Hameed R, Coonan P. Chlorhexidine resistance in antibiotic-resistant bacteria isolated from the surfaces of dispensers of soap containing chlorhexidine. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2002 Nov;23(11):692-5.
Meyer B, Cookson B. Does microbial resistance or adaptation to biocides create a hazard in infection prevention and control? J Hosp Infect. 2010 Nov;76(3):200-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2010.05.020.