Guest Post by Dr Laura Villa; Image by moho01 from Pixabay 

Is it as good as everyone says it is?

It is common belief that oral health serves as a gateway to general health. The oral cavity contains some of the most varied and vast flora in the entire human body. The oral microbiome is the initial point of digestion, maintains oral homeostasis, protects the oral cavity and supports systemic health.

Where does the practice of oil pulling come from?

Oil pulling, also known as “kavala” or gandusha,” is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique for support oil hygiene. It has been around for thousands of years and originated in ancient India. It involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for about 20 minutes.

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling involves the use of oils such as sesame or coconut oil that act as an antibacterial aid for suppressing toxic microbes. It is claimed that swishing the oils in the mouth activates the enzymes that draws out toxins. Oil pulling may improve oral cleansing through the process of saponification and emulsification, thus enhancing the inhibition of plaque adherence and formation.

What oils are used?

Sesame oil contains antimicrobial elements – sesamolin, sesamol and sesamin and has extensive antimicrobial properties. These elements have antioxidant properties and potentiate vitamin E. 

Coconut oil is another readily available oil that contains lauric acid. Lauric acid has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties, prevents dental caries and is beneficial to oral health. 

Sunflower oil has also been used and use showed a reduction in plaque after 45 days of use. 

What are the benefits of oil pulling?

It is claimed that oil pulling helps in preventing dental caries, bad breath or halitosis, bleeding gums, irritation of throat and chapped lips. It can also strengthen overall dentition, gingiva and overall health. 

Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)

Chlorhexidine mouthwash is often used in clinical practice to control gingivitis. A study looked at the use of chlorhexidine and oil pulling therapy in the treatment of gingivitis. Oil pulling was found to be equally effective in controlling gingivitis. 

Additionally, three studies showed significant positive results in which oil pulling improved the gingival health of the participants involved. 

Halitosis (bad breath)

Bad breath is caused by organisms that are found in stagnant areas of the mouth, including the back part of the tongue, periodontal pockets, and in areas of the gingiva. These organisms break down amino acids that release volatile sulphur compounds, hence causing fetid odor from the mouth. It has been concluded that oil pulling can be just as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwashes when it comes to improving bad breath and reducing the organisms causing halitosis. 

Dental Caries (Cavities)

Dental caries are primarily caused by demineralization of enamel as a result of bacteria that breakdown the food that remains on the teeth and produce acid. One study showed remarkable decrease in the total count of bacteria, and the process of oil pulling reduced the susceptibility of a host to dental caries. 

Hypersensitivity

One study showed that oil pulling can be an effective aid to dentine sensitivity and could even work better than other products. 

How to do oil pulling

  1. Measure one tablespoon oil, like coconut oil, sesame oil or sunflower oil. 
  2. Swish it around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to swallow any. 
  3. Spit the oil into the trash can once you are done. Avoid spitting it into the sink, as this can cause a buildup of oil and lead to a clog. 
  4. Rinse your mouth with water, and then brush your teeth.

Do this a few times per week. Swishing for 20 minutes can be overwhelming, so if needed, start with 5 minutes and work your way up. 

Ideally, it should be done in the morning on an empty stomach before brushing teeth, and care should be taken that oil is not swallowed. Swallowing of the oil should be avoided as the oil contains the bacteria and toxins it has just removed. 

In cases of oral ulcers and conditions where brushing is difficult and sometimes contraindicated, oil pulling can be advantageously used to maintain oral hygiene. 

**For the record, a regular oil-pulling routine should not replace routine dental visits and regular at-home oral care. Oil pulling does not reverse the effects of tooth decay, and it’s important that patients are made fully aware of that. That being said, I do believe that it is a great supplemental therapy. 

References:

  1. Singh A, Purohit B. Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(2):64-68. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.82525
  2. Shanbhag VK. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016;7(1):106-109. Published 2016 Jun 6. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004
  3. Puri N. Holistic Approach of Oil Pulling in the Dental World. Dental Assistant. 2015;84(5):20-23. Accessed September 15, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.scnmlib.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx
  4. Lee K. Oil pulling is there a clinical benefit to oral health? Dental Health. 2016;55(4):18-22. Accessed September 15, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.scnmlib.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx
  5. BURKHART NW. Oral Exam. ORAL OIL PULLING. RDH. 2014;34(5):75-77. Accessed September 15, 2020. http://search.ebscohost.com.scnmlib.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx
  6. Naseem M, Khiyani MF, Nauman H, Zafar MS, Shah AH, Khalil HS. Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017;11(4):65-70.

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