Is Oil Pulling an Effective Remedy for Oral Health

Oil pulling seems to be gradually becoming a trend now for its health benefits to the teeth, but the process is quite ancient. It is been in existence for thousands of years as oral therapy in the Ayurveda form of medicine. Studies on oil pulling attest to the health benefits of the practice.

A study on “Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review”, says “mouth is considered as the mirror of the general health of the human body. The oral cavity harbors billions of microorganisms, some of these contribute to the development or progression of systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, etc. Oral health and general health is interrelated. So it is very important to maintain oral health….”

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is nothing but swishing about one tablespoon of coconut oil or sesame oil in your mouth for about 20 mins and then spitting it out. One can start out with 5-10 mins in the beginning. It is all about gently pushing the oil through the teeth and swishing it around.
Studies say that “the oil is ‘pulled’ and forced in between all the teeth by swishing it all around the mouth. At the end of this activity, if the procedure is done correctly, the viscous oil will become milky white and thinner. Then it is spit out and mouth is thoroughly washed with clean warm saline water or tap water and teeth are cleaned with fingers or routine tooth brushing is performed. If the jaw aches, then the procedure can be done just for 5–10 min….”

The study further states that “oil pulling should be ideally performed daily morning on empty stomach before brushing teeth and care should be taken that oil is not swallowed. Swallowing of oil should be avoided as the oil contains bacteria and toxins. Oil pulling is best practiced in a sitting position with chin up. It can be practiced thrice daily in empty stomach before meals to fasten the healing effects.”

Which is the best oil for oil pulling

Ayurveda recommends different liquids for oil pulling depending on the problem you have. Oil pulling can be done with milk, ghee, oils, fermented gruel, or honey.

Sesame oil is antibacterial and hence is very effective for the prevention of dental cavities and gingivitis. Ayurveda recommends sesame oil for the following benefits. Oil pulling with sesame oil prevents dry throat, cracked lips, dental caries, toothache, and sensitive teeth.

Health Benefits of Oil Pulling

It is believed in Ayurveda, that the tongue is connected to various organs such as kidneys, heart, lungs, small intestine, spine, etc. Oil pulling is believed to help in the excretion of toxic heavy metals, chemical, bacterial and environmental toxins by saliva. Thus oil pulling detoxifies and purifies the entire human body.

Studies show that oil pulling helps against gingivitis, plaque formation, and bad breath. This is because the cells of the microorganism in the mouth are covered with a fatty membrane and when the cells come into contact with the oil they stick to each other. For children older than five years of age, a teaspoon of oil will suffice.

The study elucidates that “Oil pulling generates antioxidants which damage the cell wall of microorganisms and kill them. These oils will attract the lipid layer of bacterial cell membranes, and cause it to stick or get attracted, and pulled to the oil. During oil pulling, the oil gets emulsified and surface area of the oil gets increased. The process of emulsification of oil begins upon 5 min of oil pulling. This oil will coat the teeth and gingiva and inhibits bacterial co-aggregation and plaque formation. Thus plaque building bacteria responsible for dental caries, gingivitis, periodontitis and bad breath are removed from the oral cavity. Gums become pink, healthier and the problem of bleeding gums is solved. Oil pulling is also of help to resolve symptoms of dry mouth/throat and chapped lips. Also teeth become whiter; breath becomes fresher; oral cavity muscles and jaws become stronger with excellent achievement of oral hygiene.”

Oil pulling is not a substitute for brushing or flossing. It helps and supplements your regular dental care. The good news is that people also claim that it whitens their teeth as well.


It is contraindicated for children below 5 years due to the risk of aspiration. The practitioner should take care not to aspirate the oil while performing rigorous oil pulling.

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

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