Oil Pulling – Fad or Not?

Oil Pulling is certainly in fashion but does it provide benefits for your teeth, gums and oral health?

Nov 26


If you haven’t heard of it yet, you will before the year is out. Oil pulling has recently attracted attention in all the right places. From YouTube videos, news articles, to being sold in major retailers as a teeth whitening product. There is no doubt that it is the next big thing in health and beauty, but does this ancient practice have real benefits, particularly for your oral health?

Oil pulling is a traditional south Asian medical practice, developed within the Ayurvedic tradition, dating back almost 3000 years. Seen as a holistic form of alternative medicine, this tradition placed great emphasis on the body and its preservation. The procedure itself involves swishing a tablespoon of oil around in your mouth for 10 – 20 minutes before spitting it back out. The oil traditionally used for the practice was sesame oil but coconut or sunflower oil can also be used, with coconut oil being especially recommended because of its Luric acid content, well known for its anti-microbial effects.

By modern medical standards, Ayurvedic practices are of course considered pseudoscientific, but there is still much that can be learned and adopted into home remedies from these ancient traditions. While the scientific proof is inconclusive and in no situation can oil pulling reverse the onset of tooth decay and gum disease, the process itself cannot be completely dismissed. The swishing of oil around the mouth allows for the pulling out of microbes as well as the bacteria trapped in-between teeth and in the crevices of the gums. The bacteria that cause tooth decay are almost entirely single celled organisms and the skin of these cells is a fatty membrane, which on coming into contact with the oil would attach itself to it. A 2014 study for the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that oil pulling with sesame seed oil helped in reducing oral malador and the microbes causing it as much as a chlorhexidine treatment, such as mouthwash. If we go by the credibility of this study, oil pulling can be used as a viable and safe supplement to mouthwash.

Besides its bacterial cleansing claims oil pulling is also considered by some to whiten teeth, strengthen gums and eliminate bad breath, with many people especially noting how their teeth became whiter with regular use.

While oil pulling is certainly no replacement for regular dental visits and more traditional everyday oral care, such as brushing your teeth, flossing and using mouthwash, this ancient practice can be used as an addition to your everyday routine.

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