Oil pulling is a centuries-old Ayurvedic practice of vigorously rinsing the mouth out with, you guessed it, oil. Practitioners say that oil pulling can help to remove toxins from the body, leading to a whole host of benefits ranging from reduced arthritis pain to the curing of diabetes.
While these supposed benefits of oil pulling haven’t been clinically studied, the effects of oil pulling on oral health have been the subject of scientific inquiry. And as it turns out, oil pulling may actually make a huge difference in the health of your mouth and teeth!
Oil Pulling Eliminates Bacteria
The basis for oil pulling’s effects on oral health rest in the practices’ ability to eliminate bacteria from the mouth. One study showed that oil pulling can reduce the number of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in the mouth when performed regularly for two weeks.
Because bacteria are often the root cause of oral health related issues, oil pulling can have a significant role in reducing the incidence of many common dental and oral problems.
If you struggle with bad breath, you’ve probably tried mouthwashes, chewing gums, and various toothpastes to try to put an end to the problem.
While swishing a bunch of oil around your mouth doesn’t necessarily sound like something that would make your breath smell better, studies have shown that oil pulling with sesame oil is at least as effective as chlorhedixine mouthwash.
Plus, the study participants in the oil pulling group reported fewer unpleasant aftertastes, fewer allergic reactions, and fewer incidences of staining than those who used mouthwash.
Gingivitis and Plaque
Two studies have shown that oil pulling is an effective tool in fighting gingivitis and plaque. One, which looked solely at oil pulling, found that the practice could reduce severity of gingivitis from a baseline score by over 50%.
A later randomized, controlled, triple-blind study found that oil pulling was as effective as mouthwash in cutting incidence of both gingivitis and plaque.
Cavities and Decay
Finally, because oil pulling can reduce the overall amount of bacteria in the mouth, the practice can help reduce the incidence of dental caries (cavities) and tooth decay.
Using sesame oil, particularly, researchers discovered that study participants were able to cut their susceptibility to cavities and decay in half, and recommended that oil pulling be used in addition to tooth brushing as part of an overall oral health maintenance routine.
How To Get Started
While most of these studies are preliminary (and researchers do admit that increased attention paid to oral health using any method often results in improvements), it certainly seems like oil pulling can be an extremely useful part of an oral health regimen. If you want to get started with oil pulling, the process is fairly simple.
Essentially, all you need to do is swish two tablespoons of sesame or coconut oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, making sure not to swallow it. Spit out the oil, and thoroughly rinse out your mouth and brush your teeth. Ayurvedic tradition suggests doing this every morning on an empty stomach.
Have you tried oil pulling? What was your experience like? Did you see any improvements to your oral health?