You may have heard of oil pulling for oral health on the news, or maybe read an article about it. Maybe you haven’t heard of it at all and this is the first you have read about such a thing as oil pulling.
Whether you have heard of oil pulling or not, just know that it has been used in traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurvedic medicine, for over 3,000 years. Remember, the modern version of the toothbrush was only invented in the 1800s. From archeology, we know that people in the past lived and died with most or all of their teeth.
Most curious people would then need to ask as to how they were able to do that if they didn’t have toothbrushes in the modern sense? Different cultures used different methods to clean the teeth, such as chew sticks and other methods. Oil pulling was one of those methods.
It should also be noted that ancient peoples ate natural foods and so didn’t have to contend with the processed food and sugar that modern society all to often turns to as a means of nutrition. Ancient peoples ate whole foods and grains which did not contain large amounts of chemical preservatives and processed sugars and fats.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is very simple to do. Simply take a teaspoon of oil into the mouth and gently swish it between your teeth and around your mouth for up to 20 minutes. I have found different suggested lengths of time to do oil pulling, so there is not a consensus on the amount of time to perform the procedure. The most recommended time is 15-20 minutes. However, I found one dental professional who says that 1-3 minutes is enough time to remove bacteria and plaque.
You can use most any cold pressed oil for oil pulling. However, virgin coconut oil has certain properties which may make it a better choice. You can also use sesame or olive oils if you can’t stand the taste of coconut oil. I’ll go over some reasons coconut oil may be the best choice below in the section on the research.
I must say that I started using his advice, as I found that trying to find time first thing in the morning to swish oil around in my mouth for 20 minutes just wasn’t feasible. I have now worked up to about 5 minutes and I find that is a comfortable amount of time.
When swishing the oil around you want to do a gentle swishing motion, pushing and pulling the oil between your teeth and around your gums. Don’t swallow the oil. If you find you can’t do it without swallowing you probably simply have too much oil in your mouth. Spit it out and start over with a smaller amount.
You will notice when you spit the oil out that it has become white and milky if you are using coconut oil. This is because the oil becomes emulsified and becomes a form of natural soap that cleans your teeth and gums and helps to kill bacteria that cause gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath.
I set out to look at the research and the recommendations for using this ancient natural method of oral health. Although scientific research is not overwhelming, the studies that have been done have shown promising results. It should also be noted that oil pulling is not suggested as a replacement for brushing and flossing. Instead, it is suggested as a complimentary oral health technique to help remove bacteria from the mouth which cause gingivitis and tooth decay.
Let me just say that if someone tells you that you can detox your body or cure other diseases in the body with oil pulling I can find no scientific studies to support those claims. I am not dismissing the ancient practice of Ayurvedic medicine, but I am looking to bring you evidence-based scientific research.
I found a review of the literature published in 2017 that looked at the published studies and concluded: “Based on currently available research it can be concluded that oil pulling when performed as recommended, can be safely used as an adjunct to maintain good oral hygiene and health along with the routine tooth brushing and flossing with promising positive results”.
The review found that sunflower, sesame and coconut oils, when cold pressed, were effective at killing bacteria and removing them from the oral cavity. It also found that processed oils might be effective as well.
In the review, it was stated that coconut oil contains lauric acid. This can react with substances found in saliva that then becomes sodium laurate. Sodium laurate is a soap-like substance that not only cleans away bacteria but also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects as well. This is why coconut oil is my oil of choice for oil pulling.
One of the studies reviewed from 2008 found a 20% reduction in bacterial count after 45 days of oil pulling.
Another study published in 2015 looked at 60 adolescents ranging in age from 16-18. They performed the study using oil pulling with coconut oil. The results showed “A statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices was noticed from day 7 and the scores continued to decrease during the period of study” (30-day study period).
Many of the studies were done using sesame seed oil. This resulted from many of the studies being published from areas of the world where sesame oil is commonly used. The researchers were looking at a commonly used oil in the area for the studies. The results for sesame oil were found to be comparable to chlorhexidine mouthwash, without the side effects of chlorhexidine.
How To Perform Oil Pulling
Performing oil pulling is very simple. Take a teaspoon of your chosen oil and swish it around your mouth gently. If your jaws become sore you are working too hard. You simply want to pull the oil through your teeth and around the gums. Swish the oil around, being careful not to swallow the oil. The oil has large amounts of toxic microorganisms that you don’t want to swallow. However, small amounts will pass through the body with no problems so there is not much to worry about there.
You should also be careful not to choke and possibly aspirate the oil. There were two cases of lipid pneumonia from aspiration of the oil into the lungs reported. There is a very small risk and almost no risk if you do it properly with the proper amount of oil.
Oil pulling should be done first thing when you wake up before eating or drinking anything. Once you finish oil pulling you should spit the oil into a trash can or into a paper towel for disposal. It should not be spit down the sink or toilet as it can clog drain pipes.
After spitting out the oil you should rinse your mouth with warm tap water or salt water. Salt water can also help maintain oral health but tap water is also acceptable for rinsing.
Finally, you should brush your teeth as normal. Many people like myself prefer using natural tooth powder as opposed to using commercial toothpaste that contains chemicals that may be harmful. Potentially toxic ingredients in toothpaste include triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, and added fluoride.
This all natural tooth powder is an alternative that will leave your teeth clean and freshen your breath. It uses all natural ingredients and may also help to remineralize your teeth.
Natural Oral Care Product- Natural Tooth Powder
- 1/4 Cup Bentonite Clay
- 1/4 Cup Baking Soda
- 1 Tbsp Ground Sage
- 1 Tbsp Fine Ground Sea Salt
- 15 drops Spearmint Essential Oil
Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add drops of Spearmint essential oil and mix completely. Store in a small jar.
If you want to add a little sweetness to the mix add in a small amount of natural sweetener like xylitol. Just keep it away from your pets because it is very harmful to cats and dogs.
Wet your toothbrush and dip the bristles into the tooth powder and brush as normal. Don’t worry about the funny color when you rinse and spit. That is just the bentonite clay.
Now that you know what oil pulling is I would love to hear your experience whether you have used it in the past or are just beginning to use it for oral health. Let me know what you think in the comments section.