I first heard about oil pulling several years ago when one of my more “holistic” patients asked about it. Recently, the subject has been raised with increasing frequency. “Oil pulling” is an ancient Indian folk remedy in which oil is used as a kind of mouthwash. This technique is touted to improve oral health as well as provide many incredible detoxification benefits.
What is oil pulling and how does it work?
A tablespoon of oil is placed in the mouth and is swished around the teeth for twenty minutes. During this swishing process, bacteria that are present on the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth become trapped in the oil. Certain bacteria like Streptococcus Mutans cause gingivitis and dental decay, and eliminating them certainly leads to improved oral health. After the twenty minutes, the oil is expectorated (spit out) into the trash, not the sink or the toilet so as to avoid causing a clog.
Various different oils are recommended. The original technique apparently called for sesame oil, but more recently there seems to be a trend toward using coconut and sometimes sunflower oil. It is very important that the oil not be swallowed as all the collected bacteria could lead to systemic illness if ingested. Some people recommend performing this technique every day, while others suggest that four to five times a week is adequate.
So what are the professed benefits of oil pulling?
This technique acts as an antibacterial and antiviral system, and so detoxifies the mouth and indirectly the entire body. The potential benefits of this treatment include:
- Whiter teeth
- Healthier teeth and gums
- Improvement of acne, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions
- Clearing sinuses and helping allergy sufferers
- Eliminating halitosis
- Helping with general pain issues
- And many more
Is there any truth to all of these claims?
As a matter of fact, there is reason to believe that this technique does provide detoxification benefits. This is one of a number of methods which can be used to clean the mouth so thoroughly that the body is better able to heal itself. Apparently there is a study which was published in 2008 in which oil pulling using sesame oil resulted in a significant reduction in Streptococcus Mutans after two weeks. However, this technique was not as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash which is commonly recommended by dentists and periodontists to control gum inflammation. In addition, a serious limitation of this technique is that the oil only travels about one millimeter deep into the gums around the teeth, and the more damaging infections are more than three millimeters deep. This technique should not be used by people with active gum disease.
The most interesting thing about this technique is that it highlights the fact that as our oral health improves, so does our general health. Everything in the body is connected. So that improvement in the sinuses, the throat, the cardiovascular system, the skin and various other body systems is a very positive byproduct. When the mouth is healthier, the level of inflammation in the body is reduced, the body is better able then to heal, and we feel better and look better.
Oil pulling may be considered as an alternative to an excellent oral homecare regimen. Such a regimen would include brushing for two minutes twice each day and especially before bed, flossing between the teeth regularly, and perhaps using a WaterPik with an antimicrobial agent on a regular basis as well. Ideally people should have their dentist or hygienist recommend an oral care system specifically designed for him or her. In addition, nowadays we even have a DNA test which can determine specifically which bacteria are present in each patient’s mouth, and if they have the specific marker which might make them more susceptible to periodontal disease.
If you have any questions about oil pulling or would like information about developing a homecare regimen for yourself, please feel free to contact us by telephone at 908.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com