Oil pulling is a natural folk remedy from India involving swishing oil in the mouth. Typically oil pulling is done using coconut oil and performed for an extended period of time. Coconut oil is recommended because it is a highly absorbable oil with several health benefits, including reducing inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria. It is also edible, so has few risks for oral use.
What are the benefits?
1. Kills harmful bacteria in the mouth
The mouth is filled with bacteria some of which are harmful and can lead to tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. According to a 2016 study on PubMed, oil pulling can reduce the number of bacteria found in the saliva and can help support proper oral hygiene. The authors stated that coconut oil was a safe alternative to chlorhexidine, which is an ingredient in some mouthwashes prescribed to improve gingivitis.
2. Reduces bad breath
Bad breath is typically a result of poor oral hygiene, tooth decay and tongue coating due to a result of a build up of bacteria. Oil pulling may be an effective natural method of improving bad breath due to reducing harmful bacteria in the mouth.
3. Reducing inflammation and improving gum health
Research suggests that coconut oil can reduce inflammation which may benefit oral health with routine oil pulling. A small group study published in 2015 on PubMed found a statistically significant decrease in the plaque and gingival indices were noticed from day 7 and continue to decrease during the period of the study.
How to oil pull
Oil pulling is not meant to replace normal brushing, flossing and other oral care techniques.
Sit upright and swish the coconut oil around the mouth for 15–20 minutes. People who have difficulty keeping the coconut oil in their mouth for this length of time can start with 5 or 10 minutes and slowly increase the duration. It is essential to keep swishing and to breathe through the nose.
Once done, spit the oil in the garbage. Avoid spitting into the sink or toilet, as it can lead to clogging. Do not swallow the coconut oil.
Most recommendations suggest brushing the teeth immediately after an oil pull. However, some people believe that it is better not to brush right away to allow the retention of good bacteria and the rebalancing of the oral microbiome.
Either way, proponents recommend using a separate toothbrush after oil pulling to the one used for daily teeth cleaning.
While there isn’t significant research done on oil pulling there are some benefits that have been found in oil pulling with coconut oil. It is a simple and affordable option to improving oral health and hygiene when paired with dental cleanings, brushing and flossing.
By Meagan Kunisch