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Oil pulling is a technique for cleansing toxins from the body that has been practiced in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. A tablespoon of vegetable oil, traditionally sesame or sunflower oil, is taken into the mouth and pulled, sucked, or swished between the teeth for up to 30 minutes at the beginning of each day. The oil is thought to pull out poisons from the body so it is considered very important not to swallow it afterwards.

Our longtime patient Debbie mentioned that a member of her church was “into” oil pulling, and last week when she came into our office she wondered if all the hype she was hearing was true.

Specifically, oil pulling is regarded as a way to heal gum infections, along with a host of other benefits including these:

  • Strengthening of teeth, gums, and jaw
  • Whitening of teeth
  • Prevention of cavities and gingivitis
  • Bad breath prevention
  • Relief from sinus congestion
  • Reduction of arthritis inflammation
  • Normal kidney function support
  • Relief of migraines and headaches
  • Potential improved vision
  • Increase in energy
  • Clear skin
  • Helps detoxify the body of harmful metals and organisms
  • Reduced hangover symptoms
  • Helps with better sleep quality/reducing insomnia

While oil pulling may help improve someone’s oral health because they are paying more attention to their mouth, it doesn’t seem to improve gum tissues all on its own, and may even mask deeper problems.

If no other method is used to remove the living material, called plaque, off of the gumline areas of teeth, a layer of oil can create an oxygen-free environment in the lining of the gums that actually encourages harmful anaerobic bacteria to grow. The surface may look glossy and feel smooth and clean, but many hygienists have discovered that patients who oil pull actually have deep destructive gingivitis and profuse bleeding that can be an indicator of beginning tooth loss. This is the opposite of what is supposed to happen in a healthy environment.

With that said, as long as you continue to scrape off plaque effectively with toothbrushes and devices like floss and picks between the teeth, oil pulling can be used in addition to your regular home dental care instead of a replacement for it, as there is very little evidence that it is harmful. Just be sure to rinse all of the oil out of your mouth afterward!