The quest for optimal oral health can lead some people to choose teeth cleaning techniques that are off the beaten path. For example, many individuals across the globe practice a teeth cleaning method known as oil pulling. If you've never heard of oil pulling, you might be surprised to learn that a variation of the technique uses olive oil to improve mouth health. While you should never replace your routine of brushing and flossing, you might be curious about the alleged benefits of oil pulling with olive oil.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is the act of swishing oil — most often coconut, sunflower, sesame or olive oil — around your mouth for the purpose reducing plaque and gingivitis. An individual usually rinses with the oil for one to five minutes, but some rinse for as long as 20 minutes. An ancient Ayurvedic method of maintaining oral health, oil pulling may involve filling the mouth completely with oil or using a lesser quantity, such as a tablespoon, according to a review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine.
Why Do People Practice Oil Pulling With Olive Oil?
The theory behind oil pulling is that swishing oil across and between the teeth collects bacteria and toxins, which you can then spit out for a cleaner mouth. The review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine claims that oil pulling also generates antioxidants that kill microorganisims in the mouth. By coating the teeth and gums, oil pulling is thought to prevent plaque formation, which in turn reduces the risk of cavities, gingivitis and bad breath.
A study published in Drug Invention Today found that coconut oil was the most popular choice for oil pulling, followed by sunflower oil and sesame oil. Olive oil is also believed to be a good substance for oil pulling because its ingredients have antimicrobial and antioxidating properties, which prevent plaque buildup, according to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine review. Additionally, olive oil is thought to help ward off mouth odors. Despite these claims for improved oral hygiene, oil pulling should not be considered a suitable substitute for a traditional oral care routine that includes toothbrushing, flossing and regular professional cleanings.
Potential Oil Pulling Health Risks
The American Dental Association (ADA) thoroughly vets any product or method they recommend for oral care, ensuring that they provide the best possible guidance. With that in mind, it's important to note that the ADA doesn't endorse oil pulling with olive oil (or any oil, for that matter). Currently, there is no factual scientific data that proves oil pulling whitens teeth, reduces cavities or improves overall oral health.
While most oil pulling practitioners don't report experiencing any side effects, the Drug Invention Today study found that approximately 31 percent of individuals surveyed had nausea or headaches after oil pulling. Because there is no conclusive data regarding the long-term effects of oil pulling, it's best to be wary of adding the routine to your oral health plan.
If you're considering oil pulling with olive oil, know that proper toothbrushing and flossing will also allow you to take great care of your teeth. Brush at least twice each day for a full two minutes per session, making sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that reaches every corner and crevice of your mouth. Also remember to floss daily and schedule regular cleanings with your dentist and dental hygienist.