ExplainersHealth

Explainer: Myths and consequences of mouthwash / oil pulling processes

Introduction 

Opinions on using oil pulling for cleansing the mouth, as opposed to the general use of mouthwash, have varied over the years. In recent times, people have been pushing to abandon the use of mouthwash and opt for oil pulling instead. DUBAWA came across a video on TikTok championing this narrative.

Does mouthwash destroy the oral bacteria in its users’ mouths?

Dr Steven Gundry‘s viral TikTok video interview posted by @bettergreenhealth was on the use of mouthwash.

In the interview, Dr Gundry suggested that people who use mouthwash are killing the oral bacteria in their mouths and are equally prone to a rise in blood pressure. 

His statement in the video interview is as follows: 

“Mouthwash destroys your bacteria and raises blood pressure because mouthwash kills oral bacteria which are essential to make nitric oxide that dilates your blood vessels. Without that oral bacteria, you won’t convert enough nitrates into nitric oxide.”

Picture of Dr Steven Gundry. Image source: TikTok video.

DUBAWA conducted desktop research to confirm Gundry’s assertions. 

Prof &  Chair, Periodontology, College of Dentistry in Ohio State – Angelo Mariotti, DDS, PhD, in his research article titled: “Does mouthwash kill the mouth’s healthy bacteria?” noted: “Regularly swishing with mouthwash, whether to tame the scent of onions on your breath or to prevent cavities, is safe – even if it temporarily changes the bacteria in your mouth.” 

Prof Mariotti further stated that the benefits that come along with mouth washing couldn’t be equated to the adverse effects that mouthwash causes to the mouth. 

“The benefit of killing ‘bad’ bacteria – for example, bacteria that promote gum disease or tooth decay – far outweighs any potential risk of offsetting the level of ‘good’ bacteria in your mouth,” the article added. With time, the balance of bacteria will return to its original place or condition. 

To further verify Dr Gundry’s position on mouthwash, DUBAWA spoke to Dr Abdul Aziz Suma, a medical doctor at Sierra Leone’s main health care referral – The Connaught Hospital in Freetown.

In his response, he stated that “mouthwash” can’t be as dangerous as described by Dr Gundry in the video.

He noted that mouthwash is mainly used to clean the mouth, adding that it also helps to remove particles that normally remain in the mouth after eating. 

Speaking on whether mouthwash destroys the oral bacteria in the mouth of those who use it, Dr Suma disclosed that there are different bacteria in the mouth, some of which are harmful, while others are not.

He, however, noted that the risks of using mouthwash can’t be compared to the benefit for the mouth.

He asserted that even though mouthwash is made up of both harmful and non-harmful microorganisms, the chemicals in it can’t destroy the microbes or the oral bacteria in the mouth.

Dr Suma remarked that mouthwash is not as bad as it is being painted stating that it actually has more beneficial effects on the mouth than bad effects. 

“Mouthwash is actually not as dangerous as pictured by the doctor in the video or in the manner in which other people may paint the situation. Mouthwash helps to remove particles in between the teeth and it also helps to keep the breath in a good smelly state,” he indicated. 

Image of Listerine mouthwash. Image source: Wikipedia Pictures.

Does ‘mouthwash’ raise the ‘blood pressure’ of its users’?

DUBAWA also asked Dr Suma whether the use of mouthwash can raise the blood pressure in those who use it; he smiled, expressing that there is no medical evidence to ascertain that claim. He, however, stated that he had not done extensive research to that effect; hence he can neither confirm nor discredit the assertion.

He disclosed to DUBAWA that he is, however, sure that if one uses mouthwash frequently, there is a huge possibility for him or her to experience certain health issues.

“I have not researched extensively if mouthwash increases blood pressure in people who use it. But, I am sure that the frequent use of mouthwash can cause or lead to some health conditions in the system,” he noted.

DUBAWA further researched the topic, and, this time, the result shows that mouthwash can raise blood pressure. Still, such a situation can only occur in a certain condition, “by persistently mouth washing in the bathroom” or using mouthwash in the bathroom.

Luisa Colon, in her work titled: “Doing This in the Bathroom Can Spike Your Blood Pressure, Study Finds,” – supports Dr Gundry’s position ‘that mouthwash raises blood pressure’ of its users; however, the type of blood pressure that is caused by the persistent use of mouthwash in the ‘bathroom’ is the “systolic blood pressure” – which is the type of blood pressure that measures the pressure of the blood in the arteries while the heart beats or is in motion.

The article further indicated thus, “Now, a multi-institutional team of researchers have found that chlorhexidine in mouthwash may kill these good bacteria and raise systolic blood pressure”.

In the same video, Dr Steven Gundry posited that “Oil Pulling” is a better choice to rinse the mouth with than “Mouthwash.”

Image of Banyan oil product used for oil-pulling. Image source: Banyan Botanicals.

Oil pulling is another method used to rinse the mouth to protect or preserve it from harm. It is a process that started in ancient India but became popular with its introduction in America and Europe in recent years. 

According to Gables Sedation & Family Dentistry, oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic Process (this is an internal purification process that’s followed by a special diet, herbal remedies, massage therapy, yoga and meditation) whose roots can be traced in the Asian country of India. 

The act of oil pulling, like mouth washing, also has different types of oils to do the process. Sabka Dentist recommends four major oils for the oil-pulling process, which are: Coconut Oil — produced with coconut; Sesame Oil — which is produced with “Ayurvedic Oil” used in the production of many medicines in the past, which also has antibacterial qualities; Sunflower Oil — a type of oil that is great for oil pulling and can dilute the thick plaque and tartar, and Olive Oil — this has antibacterial properties and the ability to control other development of organisms. 

Which is the better mouth cleansing choice: mouthwash or oil pulling?

Both teeth and mouth cleaning processes have similar purposes, yet both have some distinct effects on the teeth and the mouth.

Research shows that one of the two processes is a better choice than the other.

Findings indicate that “oil pulling” is a better choice or option than “mouth washing,” and this is explained in the following paragraphs —

According to Gables Sedation & Family Dentistry (GSFD) study titled: “Oil Pulling vs Mouthwash – which is Better?” it indicated that “oil pulling” is considered to be a better choice than “mouthwash”.

“…a regular oil pulling routine has shown to have more protective dental effects than using mouthwash,” the research article stated. 

The article equally stated why oil pulling is better than mouth washing.

“…There is quite a large amount of mounting evidence that illustrates how beneficial oil pulling can be for your oral health,” the article indicated.

Image of a young woman oil pulling. Image source: Shutterstock

DUBAWA also asked Dr Suma to state which of the mouth cleaning processes is better. Suma indicated that he had not done much research on oil pulling. Hence, he could not say the better choice between mouth washing and oil pulling.

He noted that oil pulling is another great option to keep the gum, teeth, cavities etc, in good condition or form. 

What did mouthwash users’ say?

Jeremiah Tengbeh, a resident in Freetown, told this writer that he seldom uses mouthwash, adding that he only uses it when he cannot brush his teeth due to his worry about catching up with his 8:00 am lectures.

The Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), University of Sierra Leone (USL) student disclosed that he normally uses non-alcoholic mouthwash because he is allergic to alcohol. He further told DUBAWA that he feels awkward whenever he uses it. 

Asked whether he knows that mouthwash destroys the oral bacteria in the mouth, he responded that he is unaware of that.  

A similar question was posed to Kadiatu Sesay, a Freetown student who was adamant in her use of mouthwash liquid. 

“Frankly, I know both the good and bad sides of mouthwash. As a frequent user, I have researched the good and bad sides of mouthwash and the system generally; however, the positive effects of mouthwash significantly outweigh its bad sides,” she added.

Sesay told DUBAWA that mouth washing has now become part of her, adding that it has been a routine for her for the past years because her breath is terrible.

Asked if she feels uncomfortable like Jeremiah as the day progresses, she denied feeling uncomfortable after using her mouthwash in the morning.

“Well, I don’t feel upset. My system is now accustomed to mouthwash. I use mouthwash frequently because I have bad breath,” she asserted.

I asked Jeremiah and Kadiatu if they knew what oil pulling is and if they have ever used oil to clean their teeth, they both indicated that they have no idea what it is, adding that they will research the subject.

Conclusion 

Both mouthwash and oil pulling are beneficial to people who use any of the two mouth cleansing liquid substances to keep their teeth and mouth in good condition. Mouth washing, unlike oil pulling, is a widely known mouth cleaning process which has been in existence for years; however, the choice between mouth washing and oil pulling to protect and preserve the teeth, gums, and cavities in the mouth, is based on individual preference or choice. 

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