An age old Ayurvedic tradition that's entering the mainstream.
Is oil pulling a new trend, and are there proven benefits to it? Oil pulling has actually existed for thousands of years, but it’s been emerging in popularity recently due to its claims to help combat bad breath! With oral hygiene already being such a pain in our daily lives, we certainly could use a little extra help. Here’s why oil pulling may be a better alternative to typical mouth washes, and which health claims are actually true.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling originates from Ayurveda, which is a traditional medicine that’s existed since ancient Indian. Oil pulling is called Kaval or Gandush, and was used for thousands of years to help prevent tooth decay, bleeding gums, and cracked teeth. It’s a form of oral therapy involving using oils like sunflower oil and sesame oil, and swishing them in the mouth for health benefits. It was even claimed to benefit other diseases such as diabetes and asthma.
While it’s harder to study the effects of oil pulling on areas of the body other than your teeth and mouth, oil pulling has been shown to reduce dental plaque and help lower infection in gingivitis. So how exactly does this work? We’ll delve deeper into the specifics.
Oil pulling benefits
Helps kill harmful bacteria in the mouth
There are hundreds of bacteria that live in our mouth. While not all of them are harmful, there’s still a good amount of them that can start off as a mere bad breath problem, and finally lead to more serious problems such as tooth decay and even gum disease. For example, both gingivitis and periodontal disease begin with bacterial growth in your mouth, and can eventually lead to tooth loss. In a study, oil pulling showed a reduction in plaque, gingivitis symptoms, and bacterial count. It demonstrated results that were comparable to conventional chlorhexidine mouthwash.
Using an antibacterial oil like coconut oil can help reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth, and is a great alternative for younger children who may accidentally swallow their mouthwash. The key is to select healthful oils such as coconut oil and sunflower oil that naturally contain antibacterial properties, and are even beneficial when ingested!.
May help reduce cavities
Cavities are caused by a combination of factors, such as bacteria in mouth, improper teeth cleansing, sugary snacks. They form when plaque builds up on teeth, removing your teeth’s protective enamel and destroying your teeth with bacteria and acid. If you’re prone to forgetting to floss, or sip on sugary drinks often, we recommend following up with an oil pulling routine to help prevent plaque build up. Just be sure to still build up your dental routine with proper brushing and flossing twice a day, to really keep cavities at bay.
Help reduce bad breath
How do you treat bad breath? With a minty gum and mouth rinse? To really target the root of the problem, again you’ll need to target the bacteria in your mouth. Both your tongue and teeth can trap bacteria from the air and food, leading to plaque buildup and that dreaded odor. Bad breath can also be a precursor to more serious dental conditions such as periodontitis. Oil pulling may not be a total replacement for brushing and flossing twice a day, but it’s a good temporary solution for eliminating bad breath if you’re just getting started!
A study found that oil pulling with sesame oil demonstrate successful results in treating bad breath (halitosis) and bacterial build up that were compared to mouthwash. Swish the oil in your mouth after a meal, focusing on dislodging food to prevent build up, and spit for a fresher mouth.
Lessens gum inflammation
Of course, gum inflammation doesn’t always mean you have gingivitis. But oil pulling has been shown to be effective in lessening symptoms of gingivitis, which is when bacterial plaque causes gum inflammation and bleeding gums. Not only is oil pulling a helpful treatment in soothing existing gingivitis symptoms. It may also serve as a preventative step too.
How to do oil pulling
Select your oil
Oil pulling is traditionally done with sesame oil because of its high concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. It’s highly nutritious, and is rich in antioxidants that are beneficial to the whole body when eaten. You can also perform oil pulling with other plant oils that are commonly found in your kitchen, such as coconut oil or olive oil. We recommend using virgin and unrefined oils that contain the highest amount of nutrients and are safe to use when uncooked.
Swish the oil in your mouth
Pour out a tablespoon of oil and put it into your mouth without swallowing it (you might want to start with less if it’s your first time!). Start to swish it between your teeth, pulling it back and forth and in all directions. You may also perform sucking motions with your tongue too to help pull out food and buildup. Continue for at least 10 minutes.
Spit out the oil
Spit out the oil, which should now contain buildup from your teeth and mouth.
Rinse with water
Rinse your mouth and teeth out to remove anymore oil residue, as well as buildup left behind on your teeth and gum.
Brush your teeth
Finally, follow your oil pulling therapy with a regular brushing and flossing routine to keep your teeth and gum in healthy shape. You can perform oil pulling as much as twice a day, but once every morning should suffice to help you see results (and help eliminate that bad morning breath!).
Additional oil pulling tips
- Keep the oil in your mouth for as long as possible, even up to 20 minutes if you’re only performing it once a day. This longer contact allows it to better dissolve buildup and remove stubborn bacteria in the corners around your gums.
- Perform oil pulling first thing in the morning before eating anything so you can start with a clear mouth. Swishing around too much food in your mouth can be unpleasant, and oil pulling first thing can help you start the day afresh!
- Practice makes perfect! The perfect swishing and pulling motions can help emulsify the oil, making for a more effective natural cleanser. Just don’t injure your jaw!
Oil pulling is not a full replacement for brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day. But it’s a practice that’s been performed for thousands of years in India, and has been shown to be helpful in treating certain dental disease. If you’re looking to fight a case of bad breath, or want an additional add-on to your dental health routine, oil-pulling is an easy low-resource treatment you can perform quickly with ingredients already in your kitchen.