In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of interest in alternative medicine, homeopathic remedies, and all things “all-natural”. Also, with a wealth of information at our fingertips and the way the whole world is connected through social media, many people are interested in the traditions of other cultures. One of the best examples of the link between our newfound interest in natural healthcare and international traditions is oil pulling.
Oil pulling is an ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine in India dating back thousands of years. It consists of swishing an oil in the mouth, pulling it in and out of the teeth, for 15-20 minutes. Oil pulling is believed to detoxify the entire body, help you lose weight, strengthen your immune system, and boost liver and kidney function. Some websites even promote that it stops the growth of malignant tumors. This blog will only focus on the benefits to oral health care and the technique of oil pulling.
Legitimate Oral Health Benefits of Oil Pulling
There is not enough scientific research on oil pulling for dentists to be major proponents of its use. However, there is no scientific research that shows it to be detrimental to oral health. The one published study about oil pulling with coconut oil in a recognized dental journal does show a reduction in Streptococcus mutans levels in plaque and saliva after 2 weeks. (S. mutans is one of the most common bacteria active in causing cavities.) This means there is no reason NOT to do oil pulling from a dentist’s perspective, and there may even be some benefits in reducing a person’s risk for cavities or gum disease.
Questionable Claims of Oil Pulling
One of the biggest reasons oil pulling has soared in popularity is the many social media claims that it is an all-natural way to whiten your teeth. Some very untrustworthy sites even claim that oil pulling heals all dental problems so that you never have to go to the dentist again. To be clear, oil pulling does not whiten teeth. It does not heal cavities or periodontal disease. It can reduce the accumulation of plaque, which can give the appearance of whitening the teeth.
Side note on whitening: Mouthwashes that claim to whiten the teeth are also false claims as they cannot whiten teeth.
If used, oil pulling is an additional oral hygiene therapy, not a replacement for brushing or flossing. It can be used in place of a mouthwash, if desired. Again, it should never take the place of brushing and flossing.
To try oil pulling at home, simply follow these instructions.
- Purchase (or dig through your pantry for) a raw, cold-pressed oil. This can include coconut oil, sesame oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and many others. Coconut oil is the most popular by far.
- Swish 1 tablespoon of oil in the mouth for 15-20 minutes. If you are new to oil pulling, you may want to start with a smaller quantity and set your timer for a shorter length of time.
- Spit out ALL of the oil in your mouth. Do not swallow any of it. Remember, an oil that is semi-solid at room temperature should not be spit into any drains in your house. Only spit into the trash!
- Follow the oil pulling with brushing and flossing your teeth.
Are You an Oil Puller?
If you are an avid fan of oil pulling, please let your dental hygienist know. We would love to be able to correlate any improvements we see in your gum tissues and oral health with an oral hygiene practice that you have.
Are you thinking of giving oil pulling a try? Start with a clean slate by having your teeth professionally cleaned first. Call us today at 405-943-0123 to set up an appointment with our dental hygienist.