What Oil Pulling Is and What You Need to Know

Close-up of young woman rinsing her mouth with mouthwash

Plenty of people swear by natural remedies when it comes to whitening teeth and detoxing the mouth. Oil pulling is an ancient practice believed to help remove impurities from the body and improve oral health. With any oral health remedy, it's important to get the facts and talk with your dentist to decide what's best for you.

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is meant to remove germs and stimulate saliva production, among other benefits. Oil pulling generally involves swishing a tablespoon full of oil around your mouth first thing in the morning. The oil is "pulled" between the teeth and all around the mouth for up to 20 minutes. At the end of the pulling, when the oil is milky and thin, you spit it out in the bin. Never swallow the oil after pulling — it's full of germs.

Does Oil Pulling Work?

There have been numerous studies on oil pulling's effect on oral health and hygiene, and discussions about which type of oil is best. One study noted that oil pulling with coconut oil is as effective as chlorhexidine, a prescription mouthwash, in the reduction of Streptococcus mutans, the germs believed to cause tooth cavities.

In addition, a study published in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine concluded that oil pulling with coconut oil is more effective than sesame oil in reducing the severity of gum problems.

Olive oil is also believed to be a good substance for oil pulling, because its ingredients have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

Although these and other small-scale studies draw positive conclusions about oil pulling, the South African Dental Association (SADA) does not consider oil pulling to be a reliable dental hygiene practice or a replacement for brushing and flossing.

Oil Pulling Side Effects

There aren't any known physical side effects from oil pulling. However, you might notice a sore jaw or headache at first from the rigorous motion. If you swallow the oil, it could cause an upset stomach or diarrhoea.

Oil pulling should never be used in place of brushing and flossing. Always adhere to your dentist's recommended dental regimen, and only introduce alternative therapies like oil pulling after discussion with your dentist.

How to Keep Your Mouth Healthy

Unfortunately, there's no magic remedy to make your teeth perfectly white and healthy. But developing and maintaining a proper oral care routine has been proven to work over time. While brushing and flossing provide the foundation for such a routine, the steps to maintaining it are rather simple:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Use a fluoride-based toothpaste.
  • Drink fluoridated water.
  • Use a mouth rinse if your dentist recommends it.

Most importantly, floss every day and brush in the morning and evening.

You only get one set of permanent teeth, so taking care of them is essential. Oil pulling does have some promising attributes, but more research needs to be done to prove its effectiveness and safety. No matter which natural remedies you're interested in trying, never give up your daily brushing and flossing for a healthy smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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