Oil Pulling: Is it Worth Trying or Should You Remain Skeptical?

Many people have their reservations about oil pulling. A prevailing view is that it’s not much more than a trendy fad that will inevitably fade out in a few years once the next thing shows up. In Western Medicine it’s not viewed as a legitimate of cleaning your mouth. It’s certainly natural to be skeptical. A basic online search of oil pulling will result in a large number of sites hawking their oil pulling wears, which is mostly just oil or an oil mixture.

With these types of remedies, it’s essential to take a step back and make observations and do a little research. Just because someone allegedly sees extraordinary results doesn’t make it universal. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But, before going much deeper, it’s important to understand what oil pulling is.
The basic procedure involves swishing food-grade, cold-pressed oil in your  mouth for about 20 minutes. Coconut oil is a popular and recommended oil to use, but other oils can be substituted to similar results, such as sesame or sunflower. After swishing for 20 minutes, spit (never swallow), and done.


The origins of oil pulling are attributed to Ayurvedic medicine (otherwise known as traditional Indian medicine, which Westerners might refer to as alternative medicine). Oil pulling appears in the historic Ayurveda text, “Charaka Samhita” with references going back approximately 3000 years.
For modern purposes, these historical facts are relatively meaningless, since there isn’t much we can glean from a scientific perspective, other than oil pulling was used and it may have been successful in fostering a healthy mouth and body.

The problem is there simply isn’t much in the way of hard scientific studies, it’s all fairly anecdotal. At the same time, because of the holistic nature of pulling, there are plenty of critics who will automatically discount it on that merit alone. It might work. Or it might not. There appears to be something to it, but what that is isn’t understood beyond the most immediate observations. We really haven’t gotten anywhere.

Based on observations, however, it appears the act of pulling removes bacteria, plaque, and other miscellaneous material from your teeth and gums. Additionally, it detoxifies your mouth, “pulling” toxins along with everything else as mentioned. This pulling is said to result in the relief of a number of ailments, from skin to respiratory conditions.

The problem with this scenario is the detoxification. That is to say, what is detoxification? It’s really hard to find an answer when it comes to the specifics of the so-called toxins. In most cases, the easiest answer is the bacteria found in your mouth, but reducing those bacteria can be easily achieved through other typical methods (brushing, rinsing with mouthwash or water). With basic oral hygiene bacteria will be reduced regardless of the method. So, we’re left with no hard answer. It’s all speculation and assumption.

The good thing about oil pulling is it’s relatively safe. If it is something you’re curious about, if can’t hurt to give it a try and see what kind of results you get. Just be sure to follow the instructions (which
can vary, but most follow the procedure as written above. Remember, as mentioned, do not swallow the oil and keep in mind this shouldn’t be used as a substitute for old fashioned brushing of the teeth.

Harmon Pearson recently began work on his post-graduate degree in Dental Science, with the goal of pursuing a doctorate degree. He occasionally blogs about his experience and writes about various dental services. When not studying, he restores antique pendulum clocks. Follow him on Twitter @TooSweetHarmon!

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