Oil pulling is an old practice that’s gained recent publicity. But does oil pulling actually work? It turns out that it isn’t as simple as it sounds. We’ve looked at the recent studies about oil pulling and what it means for your oral health so you can make the right decisions for your teeth. There is some science behind it, but the role it fulfills isn’t the one it’s marketed for.
So here’s the truth about oil pulling:
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is the practice of swishing a natural oil, like coconut oil, in your mouth for around twenty minutes and then spitting it out. It’s an old practice that’s been around for around three thousand years, originating from Ayurvedic medicine. It was originally prescribed to fix a wide variety of health issues, however the recent focus is mainly on oral health.
The resurgence of oil pulling and Ayurvedic medicine can be partially attributed to Tummala Koteswara Rao, the driving force behind OilPulling.Org. Rao claims that he discovered the benefits through a paper published by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (which, notably, isn’t available for peer review by Western scientists).
The idea, advocates say, is to let the oil naturally kill bacteria instead of relying on modern compounds. The current body of peer reviewed evidence is limited, however The National Institute of Health found that oil pulling does cause a statistically significant decrease in dental plaque, so there is some truth to it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect solution.
Why Oil Pulling Isn’t A Good Alternative to Brushing Your Teeth
Oil pulling can decrease dental plaque, and that’s it. It doesn’t fight disease, it doesn’t remove food debris, and it isn’t enough to replace brushing, flossing, and other facets of a healthy dental routine. It only works when it’s used in addition to what your dentist recommends.
The American Dental Association does not recommend oil pulling due to a lack of meaningful research. Which makes sense, given that the few studies that have been conducted on the process used incredibly small sample sizes. Oil pulling has been tested on small groups, but not on a scale that could be generalized to the public at large.
To emphasize, the handful of scientifically rigorous sites that do recommend oil pulling recommend it in addition to modern practices, not instead of it. Which means that while you can find WebMD articles that talk about it in a positive light, there is no evidence that it can replace brushing and flossing.
What Oil Pulling Can’t Do
Oil Pulling won’t cure diabetes or reduce jaw pain. It won’t reverse tooth decay, and it won’t harden your enamel. It can reduce dental plaque when combined with brushing and flossing, but it can’t replace the tools we use today.
Most oil pulling advocates rely on studies that have procedural issues, or even articles that have been financed by companies that sell oil pulling products. To date, no scientifically sound study has supported the claim that oil pulling is a direct cause of holistic health improvements.
The idea that a medicine or routine can cleanse the body of generic “toxins” is not scientifically valid. While there are harmful environmental chemicals that can accumulate in bodily tissues, there isn’t a unified pathway for them to enter or exit the body. Any product that promises to reduce or remove toxins without identifying those toxins or how they interact with the body probably doesn’t work as advertised.
Which means that when you strip away the marketing, oil pulling is simply a mouthwash that takes twenty minutes to work. It can also cause nausea and diarrhea in patients who accidentally swallow it. It isn’t really an improvement over brushing, flossing, and using a fluoride rinse.
Talk To Dr. Halsema
Brushing your teeth isn’t fun, and wanting to find a way to maintain your oral health without relying on heavily commercialized products is understandable. If your current oral health routine isn’t working out for you, though, it’s important to talk to Dr. Halsema before trusting folk remedies that aren’t scientifically supported.
If you suspect that you’re dealing with health issues caused by environmental or dietary toxicities, work with a doctor instead of a salesperson. A blood panel or tissue biopsy will give you a better understanding of your health.