In no way should a daily oil-pulling routine be considered an adequate replacement for practicing quality oral hygiene at home or scheduling regular dental visits. Oil pulling does not help prevent or reverse the impact of tooth decay on an individual’s oral health, and it’s imperative that patients fully understand that. With that said, the habit of oil pulling can act as a great supplemental therapy to help patients protect their oral health.
The Practice of Oil Pulling
The term “oil pulling” comes from the act of the oil being “worked” around in the mouth by pushing, pulling and sucking the oil between teeth. Despite the recent popularity of this type of oral hygiene, oil pulling dates back 3,000 years to Ayurvedic medicine practiced in India.
The practice involves rinsing approximately one tablespoon of oil – typically from coconuts – around in the mouth for several minutes. As the oil moves around the mouth, it sucks up microbes like a vacuum over a dirt-covered rug. Bacteria hiding in normally hard to reach places of the mouth – such under crevices located along the gum line and in the tubules and pores within teeth – are pulled out and trapped in the oil solution.
The longer you pull, push and swish the oil around your mouth, the more microbes you vacuum up. You need to swish the oil long enough for it to turn a milky white, which shows that the bacteria has been “pulled” away. After 15 to 20 minutes the oil is filled with viruses, bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms; the person pulling the oil spits out the solution and thoroughly rinses their mouth with water.
Proponents of oil pulling claim the practice helps whiten their teeth, prevent bad breath, and even reduce gingivitis. In many cases, people also claim that oil pulling also helps to reduce tooth decay and relieve tooth and gum sensitivity.
While this makes some sense from a mechanical perspective, research has yet to prove whether the claims made by advocates of oil pulling are actually true or simply wishful thinking. However, for those interested in a holistic way of helping to improve their oral health or who have become weary of using alcohol based mouthwash after studies have linked it an increased risk of oral cancer, oil pulling could help to supplement your nightly oral hygiene routine.
Oil Pulling 101
If you’re interested in giving oil pulling a try, consider following these guidelines:
- Gently swish the oil around. If your jaw begins to throb or ache after a few minutes, slow down or briefly rest. You’re working way too hard.
- Don’t swallow the oil while pulling. If you find yourself struggling not to, you have too much oil in your mouth. Spit the oil out and start over using less.
- After finishing pulling, spit the remaining solution into the trash. Don’t spit it out into the sink and wash it down the drain, as over time the oil may cause a blockage and clog the pipes.
- Don’t drink anything prior to pulling, and make sure to thoroughly rinse with water before drinking anything after.
While oil pulling might not be for everyone, the practice offers the potential for improving your oral health with no known drawbacks. Very little actual research has gone into determining the effect oil pulling has on oral health, so until new data emerges, whether or not to pull remains a personal decision.