Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic oral care routine that originated in India some 3,000 years ago. The process involves “swishing” or “swirling” a tablespoon of oil in the mouth for about 20 minutes in order to extract stain-causing pigments and bacteria from and around teeth. Proponents suggest oil pulling dramatically reduces the numbers of bacteria in our mouths and protects teeth and gums from bacterial damage.
How does it Work?
Even though oil pulling has been around for centuries, the scientific community in the West is only now beginning to conduct research into why oil pulling appears successful in being able to reduce overall levels of bacteria in the mouth. Theories include the attraction of microbes being entrapped within the oil solution that when expelled, the bacteria contained within it are discarded as well.
Will Any Oil Work?
Yes, however, most proponents of oil pulling recommend coconut oil because of its more mild taste, and because it contains lauric acid, a compound known to be antimicrobial. Sesame oil may be another option, yet it contains higher levels of Omega 6 oils (which as Americans we get too much of already) and is therefore a poorer fit from a health standpoint.
Are There Any Risks?
Yes. In some populations, coconut oil can cause contact dermatitis, so loading up your mouth with coconut oil without first knowing if you have this sensitivity, or a related allergy, should be avoided.
Similarly, anyone nursing or pregnant should always speak with a doctor before trying anything out of the ordinary, and individuals with gum disease should never begin an oil pulling regimen without first speaking with a doctor because it can sometimes do more harm than good. It’s also worth noting that oil pulling should not be seen as an alternative to brushing and flossing. If anything, it can serve as a complimentary process to your normal routine, not a replacement.
As with any type of medicine, traditional or otherwise, you always have to do your homework. So, feel free to investigate online first, and then run your questions and concerns past a professional. Note: Oil Pulling does not reverse the effects of tooth decay.