A Center For Family Dentistry

Dental Trends: What Is Oil Pulling and Is It Good for Dental Health?

September 20, 2014 — by Keith Kelley, DDS
Tags: General Dental Care Dental Trends

A happy couple smilingDr. Keith Kelley keeps up with major advances in dental health and wellness. Many of his patients in Troy ask about new products they've heard about, or new alternative therapies that can improve their overall wellness. Keeping up with these trends is just one way that Dr. Kelley can provide excellent general dentistry that emphasizes good health and total wellness.

One dental trend that's been getting a lot off attention lately is oil pulling. Let's focus on this right now.

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is an ancient Indian folk remedy and part of Ayurvedic medicine. Between 3,000 and 5,000 years old, oil pulling involves a person swishing a small amount (about a teaspoon) of oil in the mouth for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, the person spits out the oil and rinses out his or her mouth. The oil will have turned thin and white sort of like milk.

What is oil pulling meant to do?

The claim is that oil pulling detoxifies the mouth and also removes harmful bacteria. This leads to better dental health overall.

What are the supposed benefits of oil pulling?

In addition to supposed detoxification and anti-bacterial effects, there are claims that oil pulling can:

  • Improve the strength of your teeth and gums
  • Prevent gum disease and tooth decay
  • Prevent bad breath (halitosis)
  • Prevent dry mouth
  • Reduce soreness of the jaw
  • Whiten the overall appearance of a smile

Some adherents of oil pulling also suggest that it can improve your general health as well, such as assisting the lymphatic system, improving hormone balance, treating insomnia, curing hangovers, and improving kidney function.

Is there any truth to these claims about oil pulling?

Surprisingly there is some truth to oil pulling as an effective option for reducing harmful oral bacteria.

In a Huffington Post piece by Anna Almendrala (which you can read here), there's mention of a small pilot study conducted by Dr. Michelle Hurlbutt, RDH, MSDH of Loma Linda University. The study focused on 45 young adults who had high levels of oral bacteria but were not using any kinds of dental products that would kill the bacteria in their mouths. Dr. Hurbutt found that people who tried oil-pulling experienced a reduction of streptococcus mutans, the bacteria closely associated with cavities. Sesame seed oil proved most effective, though coconut oil also proved effective at the reduction of oral bacteria.

The Holistic Medicine Claims Are Shaky

While the reduction in oral bacteria has been proven to a certain degree, keep in mind that there is no scientific evidence that oil pulling will improve overall wellness, such as treating insomnia, curing acne, and improving the function of your kidneys. Research is bound to continue as more and more people become interested in this folk remedy, but the science only supports its dental health benefits.

Oil Pulling Should NOT Be a Substitute for Regular Dental Care

Keep in mind that while oil pulling is effective at reducing oral bacteria in the mouth, it should not be a substitute for regular dental hygiene. Rather, oil-pulling should be a supplement to regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits.

Should I try oil pulling for myself?

Sure. Feel free to give it a try for yourself. You may only be able to pull oil for 5 minutes at first. Be sure to use only a teaspoon of oil and not to swallow any of the oil while swishing. You may also want to spit the oil into the trash when done since the oil can clog drains over time.

Discuss Other Dental Health Trends with Dr. Keith Kelley

To learn more about oil pulling and other trends in dental care and dental health, feel free to contact our dental care center today. Dr. Keith Kelley will provide you with facts rather half-truths so that you can make the best choices for your dental health needs.

Contact Us

Please use this form to contact us. We will get back to you as soon as possible.