By Jenifer Dorsey
Oil pulling might be the latest alternative oral health craze. It’s appearing in blog posts and news stories with increasing frequency as people rave about and question the oral health benefits of oil pulling. Even celebrities are talking about it. The trend hardly gets mentioned now without ties to Gwyneth Paltrow who, in a recent interview with E!, listed it among her favorite DIY skin treatments, touting its oral health, teeth-whitening and skin-clearing benefits.
However, oil pulling is hardly a modern phenomenon. The practice is said to have benefits to overall healthy as well as oral health and comes from Ayurvedic medicine, which the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine say “originated in India more than 3,000 years ago and remains one of the country’s traditional health care systems.”
How it surfaced as an American health trend is a question for which we don’t have the answers, but we can tell you how it works:
- You swish a tablespoon or two of oil—people use coconut, sesame, olive, and sunflower, among others—around in your mouth for twenty minutes.
- Then, you spit it out and rinse your mouth with salt water. The oil is said to pull out toxins, which will give it a white, milky appearance when expelled. Visit oilpulling.com for a more detailed explanation.
As for whether or not oil pulling is truly good for your oral (and overall) health, it depends on whom you ask. The American Dental Association on its website mouthhealthy.org says, “There are no reliable scientific studies to show oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being. Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the American Dental Association does not recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice.” The ADA then reminds us to brush twice daily and floss for good oral health.
In the April–June 2011 issue of Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, the article “Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health,” states, “Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy for many years to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw.” Furthermore, the article cites a study showing a reduction in the plaque index and modified gingival index scores in 10 adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis who practiced oil pulling with sesame oil. The 10 who participated in the control group used chlorhexidine mouthwash. Both groups experienced a “statistically significant reduction of the pre- and post-values of the plaque and modified gingival index scores.” The article’s abstract says, “Scientific validations of the Ayurveda dental health practices could justify their incorporation into modern dental care.”
Should you incorporate oil pulling into your daily oral and health care routine? Perhaps you might treat it as a complementary practice. Ultimately, it is up to you to discuss with your trusted oral and/or health care professional(s) and decide.