What is Oil Pulling?
Short answer: Oil pulling is the act of swishing oil (usually Sesame, Sunflower or Coconut) in the mouth for up to 20 minutes to improve oral health.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Oil pulling seems to be a practice with a plethora of anecdotal support but a lack of extensive scientific studies. Most sources do agree that oil pulling is safe, but debate how effective it is. Though more research is needed to determine any scientific backing to oil pulling, I’ve noticed the benefits personally and dozens of readers swear by its effectiveness as well.
There has been hundreds of testimonials online from people who experienced benefits from oil pulling, including help with skin conditions, arthritis, asthma, headaches, hormone imbalances, infections, liver problems and more.
At the very least, I think that oil pulling can be very beneficial and has no downside as long as a quality oil (that is high enough quality to eat) is used and it is done correctly. Oil pulling is a very inexpensive therapy that could potentially have great benefit on oral health, defiantly worth trying it.
How to Oil Pull
The concept is incredibly simple. Basically, a person swishes a couple teaspoons of a vegetable based oil (coconut, sesame or olive) in the mouth for 20 minutes and then spits it out and rinses well. Oil pulling is best done in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, though Dr. Bruce Fife suggests that it can be done before each meal if needed for more severe infections or dental problems.
Oil Pulling Instructions
1. Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into the mouth. The oil traditionally used in oil pulling is organic sesame oil, and this is also the oil that has been the most studied for use in oil pulling. It is also possible to do oil pulling with organic coconut oil or pre-made coconut oil chews. Whichever oil you choose, place 1-2 teaspoons in the mouth. I also pour a few drops of Brushing Blend (naturally antibacterial) into the mix.
2. Swish for 20 minutes. Apparently the timing is key, according to Dr. Bruce Fife, author of Oil Pulling Therapy, as this is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not long enough that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out. It will also double in volume during this time due to saliva. At first, it can be difficult to make it the full 20 minutes, and don’t stress if you could only swish for 5-10 minutes when you first start.
3. Spit oil into the trash can. Especially if you have a septic system. Do not spit into the sink! The oil may thicken and clog pipes. Do not swallow the oil as it is hopefully full of bacteria, toxins and pus that are now not in the mouth!
4. Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (my opinion). I swish a few times with warm water to get any remaining oil out of my mouth. Some sources recommend swishing with warm salt water.
5. Brush well. To make sure any remaining bacteria is killed.
This can also be done with coconut oil, which is naturally antibacterial and has a milder taste than other oils. Anyone with sensitivity to coconut oil or coconut products should avoid using coconut oil in this way. Sesame oil was traditionally used in the Ayurvedic tradition and is another great option, just make sure to use an organic sesame oil.
What Oil Should Be Used for Pulling?
If the goal is whitening the teeth, coconut oil to be most effective (especially when combined with this unusual remedy). Coconut oil is also slightly more effective at removing certain bacteria from the mouth, including the Streptococcus mutants bacteria that is known for causing dental caries.
Sesame oil is recommended by most sources (though this is partially because it was one of the more widely available oils when the practice first started years ago) and it is also the most well studied and considered safe for those who are not allergic to sesame seeds. Olive oil is sometimes used, though some sources claim that it is too harsh for the teeth. The main thing is to avoid using any high Omega-6 or chemically created oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.
Studies About Oil Pulling
S Asokan, J Rathan, MS Muthu, PV Rathna, P Emmadi, Raghuraman, Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics & Preventive Dentistry. 26(1):12-7, 2008 Mar
TD Anand, C Pothiraj, RM Gopinath, et al. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research, Vol 2:3 pp 63-66, MAR 2008.
HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and Gingivitis. Journal of Oral Health & Community Dentistry: 2007; 1(1):Pages 12-18
S Thaweboon, J Nakaparksin, B Thaweboon. Effect of Oil-Pulling on Oral Microorganisms in Biofilm Models. Asia Journal of Public Health: 2011 May-Aug.
There are several questions that are repeatedly asked in the comments, We have compiled them here, along with the most common answers and any research we have found:
Does Oil Pulling Help Remineralize Teeth?
It may, but more research is needed.
Coconut and sesame oils are not excellent sources of the minerals that teeth need, so using them in the mouth wouldn’t be a very effective way to provide minerals for the teeth. Since the mouth is constantly protecting and replenishing the minerals in teeth and enamel through saliva, it seems much more important to make sure the body is getting enough minerals internally so that they are available in saliva.
Can I Swallow the Oil? Or Where Should I Spit?
Please do not swallow the oil after oil pulling. It may contain bacteria, dead skin or other residue from the mouth and the whole purpose of oil pulling is to remove these things from the body. Especially with coconut oil, it is also important not to spit this in the sink, shower or toilet as it may solidify and clog the drain.
Do I Have to Swish for 20 Minutes?
In the beginning, it may be difficult to swish for the full 20 minutes when you first start oil pulling. Though this is recommended, it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Neither is the recommendation to use a tablespoon of oil. If you can only use a teaspoon and swish for 5 minutes, start with that and don’t stress about it. Some people also find that adding a drop of essential oil helps the taste and makes oil pulling easier. Just make sure that any oil you use is safe to use internally
Does Oil Pulling Help Bad Breath?
This is one benefit of oil pulling that all sources seem to agree on. Likely because of its ability to help wipe out harmful bacteria in the mouth, oil pulling is known for its ability to help improve breathe and reduce plaque in the mouth.