If you’ve been around the wellness community for a while, you’ve probably heard of oil pulling: an ancient Ayurvedic practice. Most of the buzz surrounding it comes from its purported benefits, particularly on oral health. But what exactly is oil pulling? And is it good for your teeth?
In a nutshell, oil pulling is the act of swishing edible oil inside your mouth for 5-20 minutes. Typically coconut, sunflower, or sesame, the oil is “pulled” through your teeth, which takes out all the toxins along with it. The toxins in the oil then manifest through a milky discharge, according to some sources.
For the most part, some practitioners of Ayurveda had claimed that oil pulling could help cure other diseases, as they believe many of them originate in the mouth. Aside from its general health benefits, its also been touted as a panacea for all oral illnesses.
But how effective is it, exactly? Let’s dig a little deeper.
A healthy mouth, a healthy body
According to The Chopra Center, Ayurvedic tradition assigns a section of the tongue to various parts of the body. Oil pulling then stimulates these areas, which in turn helps purifies these areas as well. Theoretically, all you need is to take care of your mouth to keep your whole body healthy.
The defense of oil pulling’s holistic treatment does not end here, however. The Chopra Center continues to note the relationship between gum health and heart health. According to them, “bacteria in the gums can enter the bloodstream,” which can then “trigger inflammation in the body,” said to be one of the leading causes of blood vessel damage.
Does oil pulling do what it claims to do?
With these claims in mind, typically, the next step is to see the scientific backing behind them. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence for oil pulling’s purported benefits.
According to the British Dental Journal, one study that looked into whether oil pulling had the same efficacy as rinsing with mouthwash. It then concluded that there still wasn’t enough evidence to support oil pulling’s benefits or problems. And while there have been studies that further investigated the practice, only a portion of them had the proper study design.
Understanding how bacteria affect the teeth also helps us see whether the benefits do work. We noted how bacteria attacks the teeth via plaque buildup, which is often remedied by regular toothbrushing and flossing. Over time, if the increase continues, it is then that it begins to enter the gums, which then causes disease. Unless there is evidence that oil pulling can strip down this accumulation, then we can’t say for sure if it can prevent oral diseases.
Aside from this, there have also been talks about the benefits of oil pulling when paired up with toothbrushing. It, however, makes it unclear whether the decrease of bacteria comes from the oil pulling or the toothbrushing.
So can oil pulling take out the bacteria from your mouth? Until an influx of peer-reviewed research on the topic comes in, we’ll never know for sure. But for now, it’s probably best to stick to the mouthwash.