Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurveda technique that originated in India as part of oral hygiene practices that included the chewing of sticks, eating herbs, and swishing the mouth with natural plant oils.
Practitioners of this technique believe that toxins in the mouth can be drawn out by swishing the mouth with oils from natural plants like sesame seed, sunflower, and coconut.
Oil pulling is used to prevent tooth decay, strengthen the teeth and gums, prevent dryness of the mouth and throat, treat bleeding gums, and improve the overall health of the body.
Oil Pulling for Dental Health
Used mainly for dental and oral purposes, there are many claims that it can whiten the teeth, eliminate plaque, strengthen the teeth, gums, and jaw, and prevent tooth decay and bleeding gums.
A more extreme form of oil pulling is used to treat chronic and serious diseases such as cancer and the practice has been cited as a cure for more than 30 diseases.
Traditional oil pulling practices have different techniques.
- Gandusha, for example, recommends filling the mouth with oil, holding it for about five minutes before spitting out.
- Kavala Graha uses just enough oil to be comfortable, held in the mouth for 3 minutes and gargled before it is spat out.
Oil pulling enthusiasts claim that bacteria and other toxins that build up in the mouth and dissolved and absorbed by the oil and discarded by spitting it out.
Does Oil Pulling Work?
In a study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research in 2009, it was found that oil pulling using sesame seed oil reduced plaque, lowered microorganisms in plaque from adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis, and modified gingival scores in comparison with the use of normal mouthwash.
In a 2011 study, it was found that oil pulling was as effective in the treatment of bad breath as chlorhexidine and a further study in 2014 reported that swishing with sesame oil helped to reduce the microbes that cause oral malodor as much as treatment with chlorhexidine, an antimicrobial mouth rinse.
Risks and Side Effects of Oil Pulling
The biggest risk of oil pulling is people using it to replace traditional, professional dental care and time-tested oral treatments. Some oil pulling enthusiasts believe that it can take the place of daily tooth brushing which could result in the increased risk of cavities.
Oil pulling may not be enough to prevent cavities from forming or plaque from building up or to reduce bacteria enough, and some dentists say that bacteria are not affected by these oils.
These risks can be minimized by using oil pulling in addition to mechanically brushing the teeth on a daily basis.
Another serious risk is the use of non-food grade oils that have not been tested for purity by an independent source. These oils could be harmful for human consumption and contain toxic additives such as lead, arsenic, and mercury.
If ingested these oils may cause digestive upsets and diarrhea and if accidentally inhaled could cause lipoid pneumonia.