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Oil pulling is an age-old remedy rooted in Ayurvedic medicine that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify teeth and gums. It has the added effect of whitening teeth naturally and evidence even shows that it may be beneficial for gum health and that certain oils may help fight harmful bacteria in the mouth!
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Practitioners of oil pulling claim it is capable of improving oral and systemic health, including a benefit in conditions such as headaches, migraines, diabetes mellitus, asthma, and acne, as well as whitening teeth. Some of its promoters claim it works by “pulling out” toxins, which are known as ama in Ayurvedic medicine, and thereby reducing inflammation. There is no credible evidence to support this.
The basic idea is that oil is swished in the mouth for a short time each day and that this action helps improve oral health. Just as with Oil Cleansing for the skin, the principle of “like dissolves like” applies, as oil is able to cut through plaque and remove toxins without disturbing the teeth or gums.
The practice of oil pulling (also called gundusha) started in India thousands of years ago, and was first introduced to the United States in the early 1990s by a medical doctor named Dr. F. Karach, who used it with success in his medical practice.
How to do Oil Pulling:
The concept is incredibly simple. Basically, a person swishes a couple teaspoons of a vegetable based oil (ediable coconut, sesame or olive) in the mouth for 20 minutes and then spits it out and rinses well. Oil pulling is best done in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, though Dr. Bruce Fife suggests that it can be done before each meal if needed for more severe infections or dental problems.
1.Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into the mouth.
The oil traditionally used in oil pulling is organic sesame oil, and this is also the oil that has been the most studied for use in oil pulling. It is also possible to do oil pulling with organic coconut oil or pre-made coconut oil chews. Whichever oil you choose, place 1-2 teaspoons in the mouth.
2. Swish for 20 minutes.
Apparently the timing is key, according to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, as this is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out. It will also double in volume during this time due to saliva. At first, it is difficult to make it the full 20 minutes, and so, only swish for 5-10 minutes in the begining and then gradually increase the timing to 20 minutes.
3.Spit oil into a plastic bag & throw it in the trash can.
Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria, toxins and pus that are now not in the mouth!
Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). Some sources recommend swishing with warm salt water.
This can also be done with coconut oil, which is naturally antibacterial and has a milder taste that other oils. Anyone with a sensitivity to coconut oil or coconut products should avoid using coconut oil in this way. Sesame oil was traditionally used in the Ayurvedic tradition and is another great option, just make sure to use an organic sesame oil.
Oil pulling seems to be a practice with a plethora of anecdotal support but a lack of extensive scientific studies (though there are some… see below). Most sources do agree that oil pulling is safe, but debate how effective it is. Though more research is needed to determine any scientific backing to oil pulling, I’ve noticed the benefits personally and dozens of readers swear by its effectiveness as well.
It is observed that hundreds of testimonials online from people who experienced benefits from oil pulling, including help with skin conditions, arthritis, asthma, headaches, hormone imbalances, infections, liver problems and more.
Thankfully, this is one point that all sources seem to agree on! Some sources claim that oil pulling doesn’t have the benefits often attributed to it or that it doesn’t actually detoxify the mouth, but all of them agree that it shouldn’t hurt anything.
All of the oils that are often used are completely edible and considered to be healthy when eaten, so they aren’t problematic when swished in the mouth. The only potential danger I’ve seen is if the oil is swallowed after it has absorbed any bacteria or toxins from the mouth.
Research is lacking, it could be considered an effective and safe alternative to mouthwash and that there shouldn’t be any harm.
Studies about oil pulling:
S Asokan, J Rathan, MS Muthu, PV Rathna, P Emmadi, 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. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics & Preventive Dentistry. 26(1):12-7, 2008 Mar
TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol 2:3 pp 63-66, MAR 2008. (PDF Link)
HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and Gingivitis. Journal of Oral Health & Community Dentistry: 2007; 1(1):Pages 12-18
S Thaweboon, J Nakaparksin, B Thaweboon. Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models. Asia Journal of Public Health: 2011 May-Aug. (PDF)
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only.