Oil pulling is a controversial health trend that has recently gained lots of popularity online, from
social media to wellness bloggers. Advocates claim that this trend has incredible health benefits
with the ability to cure many systemic diseases and even improve your oral health.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice from India, dating back around 3,000 years. It involves swishing of oil gently in your mouth for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out. The most common oils used in this natural therapy are sesame, sunflower and coconut oil. Various websites advocate oil pulling as an effective way to prevent dental plaque, bad breath, staining, gingivitis, and some advocates claim that it can even heal cavities.
But how many of these benefits are supported by scientific evidence and is this practice safe to introduce into your regime?
Is there Scientific Evidence to Support Oil Pulling?
There is a lack of reliable scientific studies to endorse the claims made about this Ayurvedic practice, and the research available is also very limited. Existing studies have not proven that oil pulling can reduce the incidence of dental caries, gingivitis or improve overall oral health and well-being. There is not only insufficient evidence to support possible benefits of this technique, but a small case study from Japan in 2015 found that there may be a chance of developing a condition called exogenous lipoid pneumonia, due to inhalation of the oily substance.
The handful of studies conducted have found that any positive dental health results from oil pulling are no more effective than using a chlorhexidine (antimicrobial) mouth rinse. These studies also emphasised that oil pulling wasn’t a replacement for regular oral hygiene practices and dental treatment, but may be used more as an adjunct to them.
Both the American and Canadian Dental Associations have a similar view: “Oil pulling should not replace brushing twice a day and flossing and although it will not do harm, we are not convinced there are any benefits to the practice.”
The Bottom Line…
Oil pulling isn’t a replacement for brushing twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing daily and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups. It’s important to discuss with your dentist your dental concerns and goals so they can help you manage any issues and help you achieve and maintain a healthy smile!
Stay tuned for next month’s blog where we de-bunk myths surrounding activated charcoal and teeth whitening. Or check out our blog for other past articles full of handy dental health info.
King A., Bad science: Oil pulling, British Dental Journal, 2018.
Kuroyama M et al., Exogenous lipoid pneumonia caused by repeated sesame oil pulling: a report of two cases, BMC Pulm Med, 2015