Oil Pulling: Does it Really Work?
The Internet has gone wild over oil pulling (swishing oil around in your mouth). Some say it whitens their teeth, makes their mouth feel cleaner, and strengthens their gums. Others claim it cures insomnia, detoxifies the body, and treats allergies.
Does it do all those things? Probably not. The truth is, we still don’t know much about oil pulling — the scientific community hasn’t done any comprehensive studies on it yet.
Officially, the jury is still out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t shed some light on the practice in the meantime.
Is oil pulling worth a try, or is it just another Internet fad that doesn’t work? I’ll give you the lowdown so you can decide for yourself.
What Do We Know?
Oil pulling is believed to have originated as an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for oral diseases.
The method only got popular in the western world in the past three decades or so. The American Dental Association (ADA) recently released a statement telling people to avoid oil pulling and follow a traditional oral hygiene regimen instead. The ADA cited a lack of evidence, not negative side effects. So they’re not necessarily saying it’s bad for you — just that it’s not a good alternative to proper dental care.
If you want to try oil pulling, what can you expect? Let’s go through some of the most common claims one by one.
Probably the most popular reason for oil pulling is teeth whitening. Supposedly, swishing with oil lifts stains from your teeth, making them look whiter and brighter.
The handful of my patients who have oil pulled regularly do have white teeth, but I also never saw their teeth before they started oil pulling, so it’s hard to judge whether their bright smile is due to oil pulling or not.
Cleans the Mouth
Oil pulling advocates say it cleans your mouth and strengthens your gums by “pulling” bacteria into the oil and away from your teeth. This could be true. Our patients who oil pull do have healthy gums. However, even if you just use water, the process of swishing and spitting helps get some of the bacteria out of your mouth, which is good for your teeth and gums.
Still, a toothbrush, floss, and traditional mouthwash will do the same job, only better. So don’t use oil pulling as a substitute for a good dental routine.
Detoxifies the Body
Here’s where some oil pulling promoters start to lose me. Your liver and kidneys already work night and day to detoxify your body. There’s no evidence that oil pulling has any significant effect on your body chemistry.
Until someone does a comprehensive scientific study, the safest route is to assume that oil pulling only affects your mouth.
Cures Common Ailments
Can oil pulling treat allergies, insomnia, heart disease, or other illnesses?
Oil pulling might have some benefits for your mouth, but it’s not a cure-all, and it’s definitely not a good solution for any serious illnesses. See your doctor right away if you have health concerns.
On the other hand, some people say oil pulling relaxes them. That could help with insomnia if it’s stress that’s stopping you from sleeping.
As for the widespread idea that oil pulling cures cavities, it doesn’t! The only way to deal with existing cavities is to see your dentist.
Basically, oil pulling is still a mystery. It might have some benefits for your teeth and gums, but probably won’t prevent cavities the way fluoride toothpaste and regular dental cleanings would.
And in some cases, people who oil pull report tooth sensitivity or problems that develop with teeth with existing restorations. So, if you decide to try it, pay attention to what your body is telling you, and stop if you notice any negative side effects.
Everyone’s teeth are different. Oil pulling might not be for everyone, but some people do it and feel great. If it’s working for you, go for it! Just make sure you also include brushing and flossing in your daily dental routine.
How to Pull with Oil
Want to give it a try?
There’s some disagreement on what kind of oil to use and how long to swish. Most oil pullers prefer one tablespoon of coconut oil and recommend starting with 5 minutes of swishing a day, working up to 15 to 20 minutes over time.
If you decide to try it, make sure you spit in the garbage, not the sink. The oil will clog your pipes.
Do you swear by oil pulling? Think it’s a waste of time? Let us know in the comments!