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Alleviating dry mouth symptoms with coconut oil pulling

June 25, 2024
Reduced salivary flow can lead to a host of oral health issues, but coconut oil pulling can help address some of the symptoms of dry mouth. Here’s a closer look at how this alternative practice can be an adjunct to treatment plans for patients with xerostomia.

Coconut oil pulling has long been revered in ancient Ayurvedic practices for its oral health benefits. In modern dental care, it has found a place as a complementary treatment, particularly for patients suffering from xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth. This condition affects approximately 10% of the general population and about 25% of older adults.

As dental professionals, we understand that reduced salivary flow can lead to an increase in plaque and calculus formation, tooth decay, mouth sores, oral thrush, halitosis, and difficulty with swallowing and chewing. So, how can coconut oil pulling help alleviate these symptoms?

How coconut oil pulling can help with dry mouth

Coconut oil pulling can help address several symptoms associated with xerostomia. One of the primary benefits is its ability to reduce plaque accumulation. A study conducted by Singh and Purohit demonstrated that oil pulling therapy significantly reduced the plaque index, modified gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic microorganisms.

Interestingly, this study compared chlorhexidine (CHX) with oil pulling and found statistically significant reductions in both the plaque and modified gingival index scores for both groups.1 This is encouraging news for patients and clinicians seeking effective, natural alternatives.

The discomfort and halitosis associated with dry mouth can be socially embarrassing and impact quality of life. Patients with xerostomia often find eating out challenging due to insufficient salivary production, which hinders the digestive process and makes chewing and swallowing difficult. Traditional dry mouth products are primarily water-based and provide only short-term relief. On the other hand, coconut oil, with its mild antimicrobial properties, offers a longer-lasting solution by forming a barrier that keeps mucosal surfaces moist. This is particularly beneficial for patients undergoing cancer therapy postradiation, where xerostomia is a common side effect.2

Jason Hou, a pharmacist in the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, emphasizes the importance of addressing dry mouth, especially in cancer patients. “We know what helps dry mouth,” says Hou. “Some people get relief by holding a few tablespoons of coconut or sesame oil in the mouth for 10 to 15 minutes without swallowing.” This method, rooted in Ayurvedic medicine, is a safe and effective traditional practice for modern times. The oil cleanses the mouth while coating and soothing irritated areas, offering relief from dryness.3

Coconut oil pulling product ingredients

For those seeking an enhanced experience, there are oil pulling products on the market specifically formulated to provide additional benefits for dry mouth sufferers. The products combine coconut oil with other soothing ingredients such as peppermint, spearmint, clove, tea tree, cardamom, oregano, fennel, and vitamins E, D, and K2. These fat-soluble vitamins help moisturize oral tissues, while clove oil provides a soothing effect, making these oil pulling products an excellent choice for those dealing with xerostomia.

Coconut oil as an adjunct to treatment plans

For dental professionals, recommending coconut oil pulling can be a valuable adjunct to the treatment plans for patients with xerostomia. It’s a simple, natural, and cost-effective approach that not only helps alleviate the symptoms of dry mouth but also promotes overall oral health. As we continue to explore and integrate holistic practices into dental care, coconut oil pulling stands out as a promising option for our patients.

Coconut oil pulling offers multiple benefits for patients suffering from dry mouth. Its ability to reduce plaque accumulation, provide long-lasting moisture, and soothe irritated mucosal surfaces makes it an excellent complementary treatment for xerostomia. By incorporating this ancient practice into modern dental care, we can offer our patients a natural and effective solution to improve their oral health and quality of life.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Clinical Insights newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles and subscribe.

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  1. Singh A, Purohit B. Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: a review of holistic approaches to oral health. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(2):64-68. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.82525
  2. Quimby AE, Hogan D, Khalil D, Hearn M, Nault C, Johnson-Obaseki S. Coconut oil as a novel approach to managing radiation-induced xerostomia: a primary feasibility study. Int J Otolaryngol. 2020;2020:8537643. doi:10.1155/2020/8537643
  3. Natural remedies for dry mouth (xerostomia). Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. September 2, 2022. https://www.mskcc.org/news/natural-remedies-dry-mouth-xerostomia
About the Author

Amanda Hale, BS, RDH

Amanda Hale, BS, RDH, a seasoned hygienist with more than 15 years of experience, excels in patient care and digital marketing. Through her YouTube channel, The Curvy Scaler, she promotes dental hygiene and small businesses. As social media director at Hygiene Elevated, Amanda co-hosts a podcast and launched a hygiene apparel line. Her blend of clinical expertise and digital savvy makes her a leader in the field, inspiring colleagues and patients alike. Contact her at [email protected].