Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy for oral health and detoxification. It involves the use of pure oils as agents for pulling harmful bacteria, fungus, and other organisms out of the mouth, teeth, gums and even throat.
The most effective oil pulling is done by placing around a tablespoon of cold pressed organic sesame oil into the mouth and swishing the oil around the mouth for approximately 10-15 minutes and then spitting it out.
Other oils such as extra virgin cold pressed coconut, sunflower and olive oil have been used, although sesame oil is considered one of the best oils for this practice. I recommend alternating oils every couple of days to get the full benefit. Putting high quality organic oils into the mouth has a multi-effect outcome.
First, the oils mix with the saliva, turning it into a thin, white liquid. Lipids in the oils begin to pull out toxins from the saliva. As the oil is swished around the mouth, teeth, gums and tongue, the oil continues to absorb toxins, and usually ends up turning thick and viscous and white. Once the oil has reached this consistency, it is spit out before the toxins are reabsorbed.
What does oil pulling do?
Multiple scientific studies show the efficacy of oil pulling therapy. One study  shows that oil pulling with sesame oil can boost overall oral health. Specifically, using sesame oil as an oral health agent helps to reduce the amount of S. mutans (germ) count in both teeth plaque and mouth saliva. Scientists believe that the lipids in the oil both pull out bacteria, as well as stop bacterial from sticking to the walls of the oral cavity.
Oil pulling may also increase saponification in the mouth, creating a soapy environment that cleanses the mouth as vegetable fat is an emulsifier by nature. Most interesting is perhaps the ability of oil to cleanse out harmful bacteria, as well as reduce fungal overgrowth. These oils also possibly help in cellular restructuring, and are related to the proper functioning of the lymph nodes and other internal organs.
Other possible benefits of oil pulling for oral health include:
- Overall strengthening of the teeth and gums and jaws.
- Prevention of diseases of the gums and mouth, such as cavities and gingivitis.
- Prevention for bad breath
- Potential holistic remedy for bleeding gums
- Prevention of dryness of the lips, mouth and throat.
- Possible holistic treatment for TMJ and general soreness in the jaw area.
Benefits Beyond the Mouth?
Ancient Ayurvedic health practitioners believed that oil pulling could reduce more than just diseases of the mouth and throat. Today, many holistic practitioners tout its use for a variety of health concerns. It is believed that these oils help the lymphatic system of the body as harmful bacteria are removed and beneficial micro flora are given with a healthy environment to flourish. Because of this holistic perspective, oil pulling has been used as a preventative health measure for many other conditions.
Other possible benefits of oil pulling for overall health include:
- Migraine headache relief
- Correcting hormone imbalances
- Reducing inflammation of arthritis
- May help with gastro-enteritis
- Aids in the reduction of eczema
- May reduce symptoms of bronchitis
- Helps support normal kidney function
- May help reduce sinus congestion
- Some people report improved vision
- Helps reduce insomnia
- Reduced hangover after alcohol consumption
- Aids in reducing pain
- Reduces the symptoms of allergies
- Helps detoxify the body of harmful metals and organisms
Scientific Studies on Sesame Oil and Oil Pulling
Sesame oil is particularly high in the antioxidants sesamol, sesamin, and sesamolin. It also holds a high concentration of Vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These antioxidants have been found to stop the absorption of negative forms of cholesterol in the liver. Multiple studies have shown the antibacterial capacities of sesame oil. These studies support the use of oil pulling in the prevention of dental cavities and gingivitis.
A 2007 study  looking into the effect of oil pulling (with sunflower oil) on plaque and gingivitis on oral soft and hard tissues. Results found that after 45 days of oil pulling, subjects showed a statistically significant reduction in gingivitis.
Another study , conducted in 2008 found a “remarkable reduction in the total count of bacteria” in the mouth, and an overall marked reduction in susceptibility dental cavities. The antibacterial activity of sesame oil was also studied and found to have an effect on the Streptococcus mutans in the mouth. In fact, these studies showed an overall reduction of bacteria from 10 to 33.4% in participants, and after 40 days of oil-pulling, participants were found to show 20% in average reduction in oral bacteria. Moreover, half of all participants in this case study showed a drastic reduction in susceptibility to dental caries.
Have you ever tried oil pulling? If so, please share your experience in the comments below.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- Asokan S, Rathan J, Muthu M S, Rathna Prabhu V, Emmadi P, Raghuraman, Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry. 2008. vol 26 issue 1, [[/12-17.
- HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of oil pulling on plaque and gingivitis (PDF). J. Oral Health Comm Dent. 2007. 1(1):12-18.
- T. Durai Anand, C. Pothiraj, R. M. Gopinath, B. Kayalvizhi. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research. 2008 March. vol.(2) pp.063-066,