Oil Pulling is a very old form of medicine which you may have heard about, but how does it really rate when you check out the facts? In order to give you a better idea of what is out there we have done exactly that, scouring through reputable sources and studies to find the information that you need to see if oil pulling is, frankly, worth your time. As it turns out, we’ve found a bit for skeptics and believers alike, so let’s lay out 6 Pros and 6 cons of oil pulling that you can review so that you can decide if this practice might be for you! Let’s start with what it is and a little history.
What is oil pulling? A quick history of the practice
Famously known for their toothpaste, we were surprised to see that Colgate has written a bit about oil pulling and that includes the steps. They tell us that it involves takings a tablespoon of oil and swishing it around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes in the morning. The oil is ‘pulled’ between your teeth and when the time is up you spit out the now-milky oil and you are good! They do note, however, not to swallow said oil as it should be packed with bacteria at this time. Oils often employed with oil pulling are as follows:
- Coconut oil (heated slightly)
- Sesame oil
- Olive Oil
- Palm Oil
It is interesting that a producer of dental products mentions the practice without a handful of nasty words and we think it is likely due to the history of oil pulling. So, just how old is the practice? Well, it’s long enough that the answer is ‘we’re not completely sure’. The international Journal of Health Sciences tells us that oil pulling is an Ayurvedic practice, meant not just for fresh breath and white teeth but also to purportedly treat up to 30 different conditions, and that it has been practiced in India for approximately 3000 – 5000 years. Some sources say the number is as high as 7000, but 3 – 5 thousand seems impressive enough. The practice has spread around the world and this would seem to indicate that there might be something to it, but let’s explore the benefits which are associated with it a little before we draw any conclusions. Let’s take a look at the ‘Pros’ of the practice.
It’s always nice to start with the good stuff, so we’re going to review some of the ‘Pros’ of oil pulling so that you can better understand why it’s become so popular around the world. We’re going to give you some of the most practical data and after we do this then, to be fair, we will move on to the ‘Cons’.
- Lauric acid – While we were exploring references to oil pulling we noticed some compelling information on Fashionista, where the author had tried oil pulling for a week to see what all the hype was about for themselves and their readers. Upon consulting with a doctor they were informed that the lauric acid and monolaurin in coconut oil does indeed have antifungal and antibacterial properties, which is very good to know and a point in oil pulling’s favor. The same article, however, did quote one potential risk which we will share with you when we get to the ‘Cons’ portion of this article.
- it’s effective for bad breath – If you really, really don’t like the taste of mint then oil pulling might be an alternative that you can make your own. One study done in 2014 from the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that when it comes to bad breath and the microbes associated with it, that oil pulling using sesame oil scored as well as gingivitis-treating chlorohexidrine. While we cannot attest for the different popular oils, sesame is one of the most popular and this seems to be another mark in oil pulling’s favor.
- Cost effective – While there are a lot of ‘over the counter’ additions that you can add to your dental hygiene regiment, oil pulling tends to be comparatively quite cheaper in cost than many of the leading brand mouthwashes and other oral rinsing products. You want to start small, of course, but if you like oil pulling and want to make a habit out of it then you can buy in bulk and save a pretty penny.
- Easy to stick to – Whenever you are taking up a new health regimen there is always the chance that that shiny new bottle with it’s confusing language and cold, sterile appearance can be off-putting enough that you find yourself leaving it on the shelf and seldom, if ever using it. With oil pulling it is a little different. For one, it smells nice, and many like the taste as well. This helps considerably when it comes to deciding if it this a practice which you are going to stick to so this is a definite ‘Pro’.
“Side effects of oil pulling are going to be fairly minimal”
- Side effects are minimal – With the types of oils employed the potential side effects of oil pulling are going to be fairly minimal. Unless you are allergic to a particular oil (and we’ll discuss more on that shortly) then it is highly unlikely that you are going to experience any unwanted side effects. As we mentioned previously, you aren’t swallowing the oil, but only using it as a rinse and this should greatly help to minimize potential problems.
- It’s a natural option – One point which is considered a ‘Pro’ to many is that oil pulling is an ancient and relatively natural method of developing and maintaining good oral hygiene. Oil pulling sometimes takes things a step further in traditional practice as well, utilizing not only the natural oils but occasionally additional herbs as well in accordance with Ayurvedic medicine. How far you wish to take that is, of course, up to you, but we recommend starting small. If you like oil pulling and find that you can stick with it, then you can always look to ‘level up’ the practice as you confirm it’s benefits for yourself.
6 Cons of Oil Pulling
Now that we have gone over the practical and studied benefits of oil pulling then it is only fair that we explore the darker side… the ‘Cons’. When it comes to oil pulling there are some potential pitfalls and some things to keep in mind. Here are our top 6 Cons:
- Some people try to replace brushing with it – While oil pulling is all-natural and leaves you with a clean feeling mouth, some people take this as an indicator that brushing is not a requirement if they are oil pulling 20 minutes a day. Brushing is still your first and most formidable defense against plaque buildup and gingivitis so don’t neglect that brush just because the new addition to your dental regimen seems all ‘new and shiny’.
- Diarrhea and upset stomach – Cleveland Dental of Ohio wants to remind you that the ADA’s (American Dental Association) is not very supportive of oil pulling and warn that a possibility exists of diarrhea or stomach upset from accidentally ingested oil. Be careful when you swish in order to minimize your chances of this but keep in mind that if you have a sensitive stomach then oil pulling might not be a good fit for you.
- Oil purity concerns – You will want to be sure to carefully select the vendor who will be providing you with your oil. Standards of purity may vary greatly from vendor to vendor and as such, you could be oil pulling with additional additives you are not expecting. To minimize your chances of this you will want to be sure to research your vendor thoroughly to ensure that there have been no complaints about the purity of their products.
- Lipoid Pneumonia – The British Dental Journal warns that the accidental aspiration of oil into your lungs can result in an increased risk for Lipoid Pneumonia. While it is uncommon we would be remiss if
“Can result in an increased risk for Lipoid Pneumonia”
we did not report this as a possibility and we recommend that you do a little research on lipoid pneumonia cases associated with oil pulling just to be on the safe side.
- Contact Dermatitis – There is a small chance that you might be allergic to the oils which you are considering using. The best way to avoid this before putting it in your mouth is going to be simply by testing it. Take a few drops of oil and place it on the crook of your arm, just opposite of your elbow, and see if your skin reacts to it. If you see redness developing or start to feel itchy then DO NOT attempt oil pulling with this particular oil. Try another type of oil and test it the same way just to be sure that you are oil pulling responsibly.
- Not enough data – Ultimately the biggest problem with oil pulling is that there simply is not enough testing that has been done in regards to its efficacy. What has been done is a bit pointed. For instance, while it does rate with chlorohexedrine in some categories, there has been no testing to see if it is as efficacious in regards to keeping cavities at bay. Some complaints to the studies which are out there include issues with the small amount of people involved in the study. So while there is some data out there that suggests that oil pulling is effective and while it has been in use for a very long time, there is still some cause to be skeptical until there is more data from which to draw a conclusion.
Some tips if you are considering giving oil pulling a try
Now that we have reviewed the pros and cons of oil pulling we have a few bonus tips to help you get started if you’ve decided that it might be a good fit for you! Just keep these tips in mind when you are getting started:
- Try different oils – There are many oils to choose from and while sesame is the most popular you might like coconut or another oil better. With a little research you can find a few that you might like to try and see what works best.
- Start small sessions before going a full 20 minutes – 20 minutes can seem like a long time, so work your way up to it by trying out 5 minute sessions first, then 10, and then 20. It will make things easier and you can still get some of the benefits.
- Don’t spit it into your sink – Oil can end up clogging that sink of yours, so dispose of the oil carefully and in accordance with your local disposal laws.
- Slow and steady will win the race – With mouthwash we tend to rinse aggressively but that isn’t required for oil pulling (and after 20 minutes you’d end up exhausted!). Swishing around slowly still pulls the oil between your teeth and gets at those bacteria. That’s all that you need.
Some final words
In today’s article we have tackled the subject of oil pulling in a little more depth than usual, so that you may better understand the potential benefits as well as the caveats that are associated with the practice. If it is something that you are considering then just give it a try and see how it works out for you. Many people are very fond of the taste and find it a welcome addition to their daily dental hygiene regiment. Just remember that there are caveats and that the studies out there don’t give us the complete picture, so if someone gives you advice be sure to thank them… and check it out on your own. We wish you and your pearly whites the best!
Colgate; “What is Oil Pulling? What You Need To Know”
International Journal of Health Sciences; “”Oil pulling and importance of traditional medicine in oral health maintenance”
Fashionista; “I Tried Oil Pulling for (Almost) a Week: Here’s What Happened”
Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research; “Comparative Efficacy of Oil Pulling and Chlorhexidine on Oral Malodor: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
Cleveland Dental; “American Dental Association’s Stance on Oil Pulling”
British Dental Journal; “Bad Science:Oil Pulling”