The Lowdown on Oil Pulling for Dental Health

Posted on: 26 May 2016


You may have heard of the latest oil pulling craze, which promises whiter teeth and healthier gums. But does oil pulling really make your mouth healthier? Can you use it as an alternative to dentists? Read on to get the lowdown on this latest sensation.

What Is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling involves you taking a small mouthful of food-based oil and swishing it around your mouth and through your teeth for 10 - 20 minutes a day before spitting it out. The most common used oils are sunflower, sesame, and coconut oils. The process is an Ayurvedic technique that has been around for thousands of years. Ayurveda is an ancient form of holistic medicine originating in India.

What Is It Supposed to Do?

Within Ayurveda, the traditional practice was believed to be a fix for a variety of diseases. It was said to cure everything from asthma, diabetes and headaches to high blood pressure in addition to being a source of dental hygiene and health. Today, the process is used to remove mouth based bacteria and germs and destroy toxins that hide in the tiny crevices in the mouth. It's suggested as an alternative to alcohol laden mouthwashes.

Does It Work? What's the Evidence?

Well, it's not an alternative to a dentist, but it does seem to have some evidence to back up its use as a form of oral hygiene. In one study, it has been shown to strip more plaque and bacterial colonies than the active ingredient in mouthwash over a 10 day period. The study also found that oil pulling was a useful technique for treating halitosis (bad breath). It does so by destroying germs and microorganisms in the mouth that cause bad breath. The same study also noted a reduction in the presence of bacteria like streptococcus mutans that are known to be a factor in tooth decay.

Is Oil Pulling Safe?

There are at least two cases of oil pulling being the cause of a lung disease known as recurrent lipoid pneumonia. It is believed that this is caused by breathing in small amounts of the oil during the pulling process. You also wouldn't want to swallow any of the oil as it's full of bacteria and likely to lead to an upset stomach. But if you can be sure not to aspirate the oil or swallow it, it's probably safe to have a go.

Should You Be Oil Pulling?

Only if you really want to. It's certainly not necessary, though -- you can probably achieve similar results with a good mouthwash. It should also not be used as a substitute for regular brushing and flossing, and you should still adhere to a routine of regular checkups with your dentist. If you really feel that you want to spend 20 minutes a day swishing oil through your teeth, and you ensure you follow the safety measures mentioned above, then you are unlikely to do yourself any harm.