Over half of the world’s population is affected by oral diseases. That’s over 3.58 billion people (1).
Chances are even you have some form of dental issue. You have probably used countless medications, only to find no result. Could oil pulling be the one solution for you? Let’s find out!
Oil pulling is an ancient practice that is often associated with Ayurveda. It has been used since ancient times to treat a variety of dental ailments (2). But the goodness of this remedy is not limited to ancient literature.
Modern research has some interesting findings too.
Table Of Contents
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is a medical practice in which oil is swished inside the mouth before spitting it out. Proponents of oil pulling claim that it is capable of boosting oral and whole-body health. But research is ongoing.
This practice has been in use for centuries, similar to modern-day oral rinses and mouthwashes. Oil pulling may involve a mechanism similar to the soap-making process (also called saponification).
The fat in the oils used in the process is emulsified into bicarbonate ions (which are found in the saliva). This supposedly increases the cleansing action of the oil (3).
However, this is just a theory. Another theory suggests that the viscous nature of the oil inhibits plaque accumulation and oral diseases (3).
Though the mechanism of its application is not clear, certain benefits of oil pulling are backed by research. If you have chronic tooth ailments that modern medication couldn’t relieve, you may want to try oil pulling.
How Can Oil Pulling Benefit You?
Oil pulling benefits us by using the antimicrobial and antioxidant effects of oils to promote oral health. Regular oil pulling can prevent oral bacteria and help eradicate bad breath. The practice also treats other dental issues like gingivitis, cavities, and oral inflammation.
1. Fights Harmful Oral Bacteria
Our oral cavities are among the strongest breeding grounds for bacteria. Over 700 types of bacteria reside in your mouth (4).
This is serious news as the accumulation of bacteria can lead to tooth decay and other critical oral issues (5). But this is where oil pulling comes to the rescue.
Studies show that the use of oil pulling can reduce the concentrations of Streptococcus mutans in the plaque and saliva (6). This eventually helps prevent oral problems associated with the bacteria.
In another study, the use of coconut oil in oil pulling achieved similar antibacterial effects as compared to an OTC mouthwash (7).
Oil pulling activates the salivary enzymes that absorb bacterial toxins and remove them from the body through the tongue (2). It works by attracting the lipid layers of the bacterial cell membranes, causing them to get pulled towards the oil.
Coconut oil works especially well in this aspect as it contains monolaurin (a chemical). Monolaurin alters bacterial cell walls, causing their death (2).
Sesame and sunflower oils also exhibit antibacterial activity against S. mutans (2).
2. Eliminates Bad Breath
Given that oil pulling eliminates oral bacteria, it seems likely that it can also reduce bad breath. In a study, oil pulling therapy achieved similar results in reducing bad breath (also called halitosis) as chlorhexidine mouthwash (8).
Oil pulling not only reduces malodor but also fights the microbes causing it (9). In areas where the availability of modern mouthwashes is scarce, oil pulling could be a wonderful alternative.
The act of pulling oil also generates antioxidants from the oil, which kill the microbes by damaging their cell walls (9).
Oil pulling also trumps most traditional mouthwashes as it doesn’t cause any side effects or mucosal staining with prolonged use (3).
3. Treats Cavities
Studies show that oil pulling can treat cavities and dental caries. S. mutans and Lactobacilli are the two most common bacteria that cause cavities. The antibacterial action of the oils used in oil pulling can help treat cavities (10).
In a study, a 40-day regimen of oil pulling showed a 20% reduction in the total microbial count causing cavities (3).
4. Treats Gum Inflammation And Promotes Gum Health
The antibacterial properties of the oils used in oil pulling can be attributed to this benefit.
Gum inflammation (also called gingivitis) is caused by the bacteria found in plaque (11). Oil pulling with coconut oil can treat plaque-related gingivitis. This effect of coconut oil is due to the presence of lauric acid (a medium-chain fatty acid) in the oil, which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects (12).
Oil pulling also reduces certain important factors related to gingivitis. These include plaque index, gingival scores, and total colony count of aerobic microorganisms (13).
The oils work by coating the teeth and the gums. This way, they inhibit bacterial accumulation. Reports suggest that the use of oils makes the gums pink and healthier and stops their bleeding as well (2).
Some studies state that oil pulling may also help stop the receding of gums. More research is required here, though (14).
5. May Treat Toothache
There is very less research here. We suggest you check with your doctor before using oil pulling exclusively for treating your tooth pain.
Some reports state that oil pulling can treat toothache and even fix mobile teeth (2). The mechanism of oil pulling behind these effects is unknown.
6. May Treat Dry Mouth
Bad breath and tooth decay are a couple of the symptoms of dry mouth. Oil pulling may treat dry mouth by working on these symptoms (2).
Traditional medicine also uses oil pulling for treating dryness of throat (15).
7. May Treat Acne
Concrete research is lacking in this aspect. But some studies support the use of pulling sesame oil for acne treatment (16). A major part of the oil is composed of unsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants. It also contains vitamin E, which imparts great healing properties to the skin.
Looking at the research, it is logical to think that topical application of sesame oil may treat acne. But how oil pulling treats acne is something yet to be understood.
For the major part, research on oil pulling is strong and constant. Oil pulling is a wonderful way to achieve oral health. Regularly practicing it can treat common oral problems – including bad breath, oral infections, and inflammation.
But all of this depends on how you do oil pulling – and how well you do it.
How To Do Oil Pulling
The process is simple and involves a few steps:
- Take one tablespoon of the oil you are using (coconut, olive, or sesame oil).
- Swish it around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. Ensure you do not swallow any.
- Once done, spit the oil into a trash can. Do not spit into the sink or toilet as this may cause oil build-up and lead to clogging.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water before you consume anything.
- You may also brush your teeth after this. But ensure you have two separate toothbrushes – one for your regular brushing, and one for brushing after oil pulling.
You can do oil pulling a few times a week or even three times daily. Work your way up. Start by swishing for 5 minutes and gradually increase the duration to 15 or 20 minutes.
Most recommend doing oil pulling on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. But you can adapt as per your preferences (2).
Oil pulling is simple and extremely effective. But if this is a first for you, certain pointers can help.
What Precautions Should You Take?
Do not swallow the oil as it contains the bacteria and other toxins collected from your oral activity.
There are some concerns with tooth fillings or crowns. Although no research exists showing the loosening of tooth fillings or crowns with oil pulling, it is better to exercise caution. Consult with your dentist and do as directed.
Do not use an oil you have a sensitivity to. Individuals with allergy to tree nuts may have issues using coconut oil. Choose wisely.
But how do you choose? We already discussed a bit about this. Let’s delve a little deeper into the best oils you can use for oil pulling.
What Are The Best Oils For Oil Pulling?
There are a number of oils you can use. The following list should give you an idea:
Sesame Oil – Go for the unrefined and cold pressed version. The oil contains sesamin, sesamolin, and sesaminol. These compounds impart detoxification, antioxidant, and antibiotic properties to the oil (2). You can buy it here.
Coconut Oil – Go for unrefined, virgin coconut oil. The lauric acid in the oil bags the credit. It contains 50% of the acid. In fact, human breast milk is the only other natural source with such high concentrations of lauric acid. This acid has proven antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (17). You can buy it here.
Sunflower Oil – Go for the unrefined and cold pressed version. It has antibacterial properties. It also contains the essential vitamins A, D, and E. Some users state that it may be a less stronger (in terms of taste) alternative to sesame oil. You can buy it here.
You may also go for olive oil and almond oil (unrefined variants), but there is less research on how effective these could be for oil pulling. Please check with your doctor.
Dental problems are some of the most common issues troubling humanity today.
Oil pulling can never be a replacement for contemporary medicine. But it can be a good habit you can imbibe daily. It can be a preventive measure.
The procedure is simple. You need just 5 to 15 minutes a day. Pick the right oils and work your way up the duration. As time passes, you may experience the wonderful results.
Do you like oil pulling? What is your experience? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment in the box below.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Does oil pulling whiten teeth?
There is limited research. There aren’t many anecdotal reports supporting the teeth-whitening effects of oil pulling.
- “Oral Health” World Health Organization.
- “Oil pulling for maintaining oral…” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Oil pulling and importance of traditional…” International Journal of Health Sciences, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Composition and development of oral bacterial…” Periodontology 2000, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Tooth decay: overview” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans…” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine.
- “The effect of coconut oil pulling on…” The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and…” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Comparative efficacy of oil pulling and…” Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries…” African Journal of Microbiology Research.
- “Gingivitis and periodontitis: overview” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of coconut oil in plaque related…” Journal of the Nigeria Medical Association, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis…” Indian Journal of Dental Research, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Oil pulling: ancient answer or old-school…” University of Florida.
- “Role of ayurveda in management of oral health” Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Formulation and characterization of…” Scientia pharmaceutica, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Effect of coconut oil in plaque related…” Nigerian Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
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