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Oil Pulling

Oil Pulling

Lately there have been countless new fads, ideas and opinions shared with the public, especially as social media popularity grows. One, called oil pulling, has popped up on Facebook and Pinterest, so we thought we’d do some research on what it is and if it works.

Oil Pulling Sounds So Odd. What is It?

Oil pulling, also known as oil swishing, is actually an ancient Ayurvedic remedy. It involves  “pulling” or swishing oil in the mouth for up to 20 minutes. The most recommended oils are sesame, grapeseed, canola, and sunflower oil, and it is recommended to do your oil pulling in the morning before breakfast.

There are many reasons people practice oil pulling, the most common being for supposed oral and systemic health benefits such as acne, migraines and headaches, asthma, and gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. In fact, it’s been claimed that oil pulling will cure over 30 diseases.

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How Oil Pulling Works

Advocates of oil pulling claim that the oil absorbs toxins and chemicals that are drawn from your body through the mucous membrane tissues of your mouth. The claim is that after 20 minutes the oil turns white, and that white color is supposedly toxins that have been drawn out of your body.

What Do We Know?

At a recent lecture by Professor Karen Baker M.S. University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Director of Dental Pharmacy Services, we learned that there is no science behind the claims that oil pulling actually detoxifies. Studies have proven that the white color change of the oil is simply the oil mixing with your saliva and turning into an emulsion. For those of you who like to cook this is just like mixing oil with vinegar salad dressing.

Are There Any Benefits of Oil Pulling?

However, there is some limited evidence that sesame oil may have anti-microbial properties against some harmful oral bacteria. This means that it is possible that there are some benefits of oil pulling for your mouth and gum tissue health. Another interesting fact is that the oil can be a moisturizer. This can be extremely helpful and soothing thing to do for a patient with dry mouth (xerostomia). It will moisturize and lubricate the oral cavity. We know there is no harm in oil pulling so it seems like a very good additional option for a patient with dry mouth to try.

I’ve Heard of Using an Essential Oil, What About Trying That Instead?

Essential oils are a mixture of thymol, eucalyptol, and menthol (the ingredients in Listerine). These oils are much too irritating to leave in the mouth for 20 minutes. This means they will probably cause irritation to the tissue instead of healing it, so we definitely don’t recommend their use for oil pulling. However, essential oils are good as an antimicrobial agent, and we do recommend them for improved gum and mouth health if used for brief mouth rinsing. Essential oils have also been proven to cure many things from headaches to intestinal troubles if used properly — not for oil pulling!

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When It Comes to Curing Ailments, See Your Doctor

Since oil pulling hasn’t been studied enough, it’s safe to say you should do a little research before trying to do it on your own. We recommend a trip to your doctor or pharmacist for any ailments and diseases.

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