Oil Pulling – What the Science Says

Oil Pulling is sometimes called oil gargling and it is an old Ayurvedic method of cleaning the mouth that is said to have originated in India some 2,000 years ago. Currently there is excitement about oil pulling in online articles and blogs, and if you have bad breath or gum disease, oil pulling may be worth considering. This may also be useful if you suffer from chronic illness, asthma, arthritis or fatigue.

How to Oil PullOil Pulling

Sunflower, sesame or coconut oils are the oils most often used, and a small spoonful is swished around in the mouth for 15-20 minutes. Proponents suggest you do this first thing in the morning before eating, and then spit out the milky white liquid – being sure not to swallow it (since it is said to be full of bacteria and toxins). Be careful where you spit out the oil so that the liquid does not go down a drain or onto vegetation, since it will kill grass and flowers. After spitting, rinse your mouth with warm water and then brush your teeth. In essence oil pulling may “pull” disease bacteria away from gum pockets and from around teeth, thus reducing the number of bacteria in the mouth and the toxic burden they create, so eventually less toxins are absorbed by the body. Oil pulling may help improve mouth health for some people, but others should be cautious, since oil pulling can make certain mouth problems worse.

Oil Pulling – Scientific Studies

A review of the science on oil pulling shows most of the studies are from India and they compare the effectiveness of oil pulling with aggressive mouthwashes like chlorhexidine. These studies show oil pulling may be useful for gingivitis, bad breath and dry mouth, but there are no studies to show it is useful for tooth decay. There are many testimonials from people who say they have experienced healthier gums and fresher breath from using this method of mouth cleaning, and no reports of harm. Some researchers claim saliva interacts with fatty acids in the oils to activate detoxifying enzymes in saliva. Others suggest the oil emulsifies bacteria and loosens them from teeth, cleaning away any fungi at the same time. The most probable explanation is that certain oils contain lignans, which are compounds that have antioxidant and antimicrobial activity. Sesame oil has three lignans (sesamin, sesamolin and sesaminol) and contains high amounts of vitamin E, which could also contribute to the successes.

Oil Pulling Recommendations

To date there is not much science supporting oil pulling because the studies were too small, too short, or incomplete. This does not mean oil pulling is not useful, but be aware it does not appear to control cavities and is not recommended for very young children, especially those with early childhood caries (ECC). In addition anyone with gum recession or sensitivity should approach oil pulling with caution, since this technique may damage biofilm and pellicle proteins, essential components of a healthy mouth that govern mineralization and support gum health. For this reason oil pulling should probably be a short-term or periodic adjunct to oral care, recommended mainly for people fighting periodontal disease.



An Update on Oral Pulling

I wrote the above post just about 3 years ago. Since then there are more people trying oil pulling and some are finding their teeth become very sensitive and they experience gum recession. Watch the video below for my update:

 

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8 thoughts on “Oil Pulling – What the Science Says

  1. Does oil pulling exacerbate gum recession? I thought that its cleansing properties made it a good thing to do for gum health.

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    1. Unlike periodontal disease, gum recession is usually NOT from excessive plaque, bad bacteria, or poor oral hygiene. In many instances it is aggravated by over-cleaning, which can be from over-flossing or from using products that damaged the surface proteins that normally protect and nurture teeth and gums. (Damage can be from whitening or bleaching teeth, or the use of hydrogen peroxide or baking soda products).It appears oil pulling may also damage these proteins – so if you have gum recession I suggest you stop oil pulling, limit flossing, and instead brush and rinse carefully with the products I recommend in my Complete Mouth Care System ( including regular use of xylitol). Also ensure you eat enough protein and consider a course of digestive probiotics – to improve mineral absorption from your digestive system. These changes should start positive improvements in just a couple of months.
      (Healing begins when you massage the gums around teeth with your toothbrush. There is a plentiful capillary network of blood vessels in the gums and when blood circulates, it brings immune cells and nutrients to heal and regrow the gums)

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      1. Gum recession isn’t part of periodontal disease? I have long-term serious gum recession, including “rolled” gums in spots, yet I do everything right where oral health is concerned, including following your advice above. I consume a lot of xylitol daily as well. Apparently, I have “fragile” gums, but I have no idea why. Is it true that stress alone can contribute to the problem? Thanks a lot. I always appreciate your great advice!
        P.S. How do I change my information so that my full name doesn’t appear in the post?

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    1. How many Zellies do you use each day and when?
      It’s really important to have at least 5 exposures to xylitol – and the best time for Zellies mints and gum is at the end of meals. You may also want to think about the kind of snacks and drinks you enjoy – because something is too acidic in your mouth.
      If you drink water, you may want ( in addition to Zellies) to add granular xylitol to this water. Ensure you are using the Complete Mouth Care System during the day and last thing at night so that the benefits will “soak” into your teeth for at least an hour or so after doing the system – before you eat or drink again.

      There is a possibility that oil pulling can help people with gum disease to some extent – but there is no science to show that oil pulling has any effect on cavities or cavity bacteria – and personally I think it may damage protective biofilm and make teeth sensitive.

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  2. I’m doing the mouth care system but I still have one tooth that is at the point that it needs a root canal. Can the mouth care system and zellies heal that or should I go ahead and get it done? I don’t drink soda or tea ever, don’t eat tons of candy or other sugary sweets, I’ve tried every gel/spray to treat dry mouth out there and none of them work. I eat 5 zellies a day, they taste good but don’t help my dry mouth. I was on medications causing dry mouth several years ago but I changed meds a year ago and my dry mouth persists because I am naturally a mouth breather.I’m just so frusterated. I’m only 25 and afraid my teeth are going to rot out of my head by the time I am 50.

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  3. I am oil pulling coconut oil and have ordered some toothpaste with Novamin to help remineralize my teeth.It use to be avaliable in US Sensodyne but you can still buy it on Ebay with Novamin a proven ingredient.

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    1. I would suggest you stop oil pulling – that can make your teeth sensitive. I also recommend you start using Zellie’s mints and gum and the Complete Mouth Care System…..This routine will help, not only your gums, but it will stop sensitivity in about a week. LINK

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