There’s a lot of buzz lately about oil pulling. It’s not a new thing, although it’s experiencing a widespread boost in interest; in India, oil pulling has been done for hundreds of years, and many swear by it. There’s also a fair amount of confusion as to what it is, why it’s done, and what it entails. Before you decide if it’s something you want to bring up with your dentist or physician, here’s what you need to know.
In short, oil pulling is the use of pure vegetable-based oils as a sort of mouthwash, which is kept in the mouth, swished, and then spit out, and it’s used to improve oral health and hygiene.
A Little Goes a Long Way
It only takes a spoonful of oil to do the job, but you should swish it around in your mouth for a good five to 10 minutes… but longer if you want to try to replicate the results from studies like the one below. This might also depend on the oil you use. Stronger-tasting oils (like sesame oil) might be difficult to swish for very long when you first begin your oil pulling regimen.
Does It Work?
There is evidence that oil pulling works due to a chemical process known as saponification (essentially, the creation of soap) and emulsification of the fatty acids in the oil while in use. Consider the oil a type of mouthwash, and the “pulling” another form of swishing it in your mouth. The problem: to do this, you’d have to swish it around in your mouth for around 20 minutes, and that sounds somewhat painful, if not impractical.
Which Oil Is Best?
Coconut oil is a popular choice, but sesame oil is said to have the greater effectiveness. Others prefer the taste of olive oil, which may be more familiar and palatable. Don’t be turned off by the intensity or taste of a particular oil. Try out a variety of oils to see which work best for you. For example, sunflower oil is rich but less strong-tasting than sesame oil.
Avoid “Toasted” and “Heated” Oils
The idea is to have pure oils, as close to natural as you can get them.
Be Mindful of Allergies
Even a teaspoon of oil can be a serious concern if you experience an allergic reaction to it. If you’re concerned, try a small amount first.
Does It Work?
The primary aim of oil pulling is to freshen breath, treat bleeding gums, prevent tooth decay and strengthen teeth, a practice that has long been practiced in India but not widely studied. Attributing oil pulling as a cure for other health problems is largely anecdotal and speculative at this point.
Keep It Simple
Adding flavors, spices and herbs to an oil to improve its taste is thought to be counterproductive.
Rinse and Spit
Pulled oil is meant to be spit out, along with any impurities it may have picked up along the way. If you do accidentally swallow it, it shouldn’t be a problem, however.
Essentially, oil pulling probably shouldn’t replace your toothbrush, and it’s meant to add a little boost to your healthy oral hygiene practices. Ask your doctor or dentist if they think it’s a good idea to start oil pulling before you try it, just to make sure.