Oil pulling may be one of the latest alternative health crazes, but it’s far from new. It’s a practice rooted in Ayurveda, a 3,000-year-old Indian healing system.
If you’ve never heard of oil pulling, it doesn’t involve drilling in the ground for black gold. Instead, it’s a daily ritual of swishing oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for about 20 minutes. Proponents say oil pulling—also called gundusha or kavala—can greatly benefit your oral health, with purported results including:
- Cavity prevention
- Fresher breath
- Gingivitis prevention
This practice has grown in popularity in recent years, with stories about trying oil pulling becoming a mainstay among health and lifestyle bloggers. You might think that from the perspective of western medicine that oil pulling is one of those proverbial “old wives’ tales.” Recent scientific studies, though, have given credence to its efficacy.
At Taylor Cosmetic Dental, we’ve had patients ask whether oil pulling actually helps your teeth. Our cautious answer is it can do little harm and may well do some good. It should never, however, be used as a substitute for brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s talk some more about oil pulling and its potential benefits.
What Does Oil Pulling Look Like?
Many people prefer to undertake oil pulling first thing in the morning, but you can do it whenever your stomach is empty. Some people say it’s best to do it before brushing your teeth while others insist you should perform oil pulling after you brush your teeth. It starts with taking a tablespoon of an oil such as:
- Cold-pressed sesame oil
- Cold-pressed sunflower oil
- Extra-virgin coconut oil
Each of these has different beneficial components. Coconut oil is arguably the most popular medium because it has a pleasant flavor, given you like the taste of coconut. Coconut oil also contains fatty acids with antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
While you swish, bacteria is said to be swept away from your teeth and mouth, dissolving into the oil. The oil thickens and becomes milky after a while. When you’re done, spit the oil into a trashcan rather than the sink, as it can clog your drain. You may want to gargle some warm water afterward.
How Might Oil Pulling Benefit Your Oral Health?
Your mouth can play host to as many as 700 different types of bacteria. At any given moment, you’re likely to have some 250 kinds of bacteria in your mouth. Some of these are “friendly” bacteria while others are harmful.
Some of these harmful bacteria show up in the thin layer that forms on your teeth, known as plaque. If left unchecked, the bacteria from plaque interacts with bits of food to create enamel-attacking acid. In this way, plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Oil pulling just might help.
In one study, children were asked to spend 10 minutes a day swishing regular mouthwash or using oil pulling with sesame oil. In just one week, both methods were found to significantly reduce the number of harmful bacteria found in the kids’ saliva. In another study, 60 participants were asked to rinse their mouths with mouthwash, water or coconut oil for two weeks. The participants who swished with mouthwash and those who used coconut oil both had a markedly lower amount of bacteria in their saliva. Promising results, indeed.
At Taylor Cosmetic Dental, we’re encouraged by any trend that puts a focus on preventative dental care. Oil pulling may well be a helpful part of this process. Again, though, don’t forget to brush, floss and arrange for regular dental visits, methods that have all been proven to improve your oral health.