Oil Pulling: What Is It, and Does It Really Work?
Oil pulling is a growing trend in the alternative health community. But this practice isn’t new: Oil pulling is actually a traditional health remedy from India, where it’s long been used to correct various imbalances in the body.
Part of the ancient Ayurveda system of medicine, oil pulling involves swishing oil in the mouth for a period of 10-20 minutes. The oil is then spit out. The idea behind oil pulling is simple: by swishing with oil for a few minutes each day, you can help improve your oral health by cleansing the mouth of bad bacteria.
If you’re looking to upgrade your dental health, consider making oil pulling a regular part of your oral hygiene routine.
How Does It Work?
Oil pulling is simple: just take a tablespoon of oil in your mouth – typically coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil – and swish or pull it around and through your teeth. After 10-20 minutes of swishing, you spit out the oil. In the process, the oil transforms from clear to milky white, as it fills with bacteria and other waste from the mouth.
A number of recent studies confirm that oil pulling can help with plaque buildup, gingivitis, bad breath, and other problems caused by a bacterial imbalance in the mouth. In fact, one study demonstrated that oil pulling is as effective at combating halitosis as strong antibacterial mouthwashes.
Oil pulling works because the bacteria that inhabit the mouth are covered with a layer of fat, which naturally adheres to the oil when they come in contact. This is why spitting out the oil at the end is so important: it’s loaded with bacteria!
How Often Should I Oil Pull?
If you’re actively working to improve a dental condition like gingivitis, receding gums, or tooth decay, oil pulling daily is highly recommended. When just starting out with oil pulling, begin with only 5 minutes at a time, and slowly work up to 20 minutes. If your jaw aches while oil pulling, you’re working too hard — a gentle swishing through the teeth is all that’s necessary.
When you’re ready to spit, aim for the nearest trash can. The sink might feel like the natural choice, but oil can lead to clogged pipes over time.
Sesame oil is the traditional choice for oil pulling, and is thought to be a good choice for improving symptoms of dry mouth or oral inflammation.
Sunflower oil offers the same benefits as sesame oil, but with a much milder flavor. Reach for sunflower oil if you’d prefer your oil not have a strong taste.
Coconut oil is growing quickly in popularity, and offers unique antimicrobial benefits due to the high concentrations of lauric acid in this oil. One study showed that oil pulling with coconut oil helped reduce the number of Streptococcus Mutans in the mouth, the bacteria thought to be responsible for gum disease and dental decay. For optimal cavity prevention, swish with coconut oil.
Essential oils, like tea tree oil, can be added to your oil in tiny amounts for an extra antibacterial boost. Add a single drop of essential oil to 1 Tbsp. sesame, sunflower, or coconut oil, and swish as usual.
A Quick Word of Caution
While oil pulling can offer great benefits for dental health, remember that oil pulling is not a replacement for brushing or flossing, or for regular visits to the dentist. You may find that right before you brush your teeth in the morning is an optimal time to practice oil pulling, as you can then brush away any oily residue.