A patient last winter asked me if I was familiar with “oil pulling” and I confessed that I had not heard of it or knew anything about it. She shared with me that it had been recommended as a regimen that potentially had many therapeutic benefits. My interest was piqued and I did some homework and came up with the following findings.

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling or oil swishing is a traditional folk remedy that involves swishing oil in the mouth. Ayurvedic literature describes oil pulling as capable of both improving oral health and treating systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus or asthma. While scientific evidence is lacking to support any systemic benefits of oil pulling, some studies have suggested that it may reduce oral plaque, halitosis and gingivitis.

THE PROCEDURE: The practitioner rinses the mouth with approximately one tablespoon of oil for 15–20 minutes on an empty stomach (before eating/drinking) then spits it out and washes the teeth, gums, tongue (softly) and palate thoroughly. Cold pressed (raw) oil is critical to the (alleged) effectiveness. Sesame oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil are the most recommended. According to an Irish study, coconut oil is the only effective oil used in oil pulling that can stop growth of Streptococcus bacteria and is therefore recommended for oil pulling. Oil pulling is usually recommended to be done first thing in the morning; moreover, followed by rinsing mouth  and then flossing and brushing teeth in normal morning routine.

Should you try it? In my mind we need to be open to traditional and alternative medicine efforts to prevent disease and/or maintain wellness. This is not to say that you should abandon conventional treatment modalities, but instead work to integrate the different approaches for possibly a broader benefit. I am supportive of something even if it is not proven to help, provided it does not cause any harm and is not promoted to replace conventional treatment of existing disease.  So by that rationale ,I would recommend oil pulling as a part of a therapeutic regimen for disease prevention purposes, but not as a replacement of conventional treatment of disease.

Donald R. Dexter, Jr., DMD