Based on an ancient Indian medicinal remedy, oil pulling or oil swishing is growing in popularity once again like so much age old medicinal remedies. It is a natural way to detoxify the mouth and gums while also whitening teeth and improving overall oral health by fighting certain harmful bacteria that live in the mouth. Research has shown oil pulling to be very effective in reducing harmful gum diseases while improving oral health compared to controls, showing itself to be effective both as a preventative and a curative technique. Some have even found it useful in jaw issues such as TMJ for strengthening the muscles and joints in the jaw area as well as whitening teeth, strengthening the gums, and eliminating plaque build up.
Oil pulling has been used extensively in ancient Indian medicines for years and is claimed to cure or help alleviate at least 30 different maladies such as headaches and migraines to diabetes and asthma. This on top of its uses in preventing tooth decay, bleeding gums, dry throat and mouth, cracked lips, and noted benefits on strengthening the teeth, gums, and jaw. These benefits of oil pulling were first noted in the Ayurveda, a holistic system of healthcare that developed in India some three to five thousand years ago. The Ayurveda covered a wide range of surgical and medical techniques, but interestingly enough did not cover a system of dentistry like Western cultures developed. Despite this, using techniques like oil pulling many cavity, plaque, and infection afflictions in the mouth and jaw were able to be cured.
Historically, brushing and flossing as well as fluoride and basic dentistry are very much brand new. Even in modern day countries these techniques did not become popular till sometime in the 1930’s. Despite this many ancient people lived similar life spans to modern day and maintained most of their teeth in a normal state. This is partially because the dietary differences of modern sugars and grains which have been shown to weaken tooth enamel, but oral care was still important to many ancient cultures. Oil pulling, also known as Kavala Graha, is one of these techniques as well as the closely related Gandusha wherein the mouth if filled completely with the oil instead of swishing. In the Ayruvedic health traditions there exist bodily energies called doshas. These determine one’s physical, mental, and physiological characteristics as well as their vulnerability towards diseases. Different factors can upset this balance such as strained or stressful relationships, unhealthy diet, and even the weather. According to tradition upsetting this balance leaves the individual more susceptible to disease. Oil pulling is one of the techniques used to bring balance to these “doshas”.
The basics behind oil pulling is the idea, like in oil based skin cleansing, to dissolve materials and bacteria in the mouth into an oil. This is because most harmful bacteria in the mouth are simple one-celled organisms which are covered in a lipid, or fatty, membrane that binds to the oils. Generally coconut, sunflower, or sesame oil are used to cut into the plaques on gums and teeth and are swished through the mouth for twenty minutes before being rinsed out. One to two teaspoons of the oil substance is placed into the mouth and then swished about for the allotted time, afterwards the oil is spit from the mouth and then rinsed with warm water for a few minutes to remove traces of the oily substances. Normal brushing and then flossing is recommended afterwards for the highest benefits.
Interestingly enough, many claim that oil pulling is also effective against of large amount of other body issues besides that of oral health. The idea here lies in the fact that the mouth is the easiest way for bacteria, disease, and toxins to enter the body and by removing them from the mouth before they enter the blood stream many maladies can be alleviated as well as increased function of the organs such as the kidneys, liver, stomach, heart, lungs, and any other part of the body that must deal with these foreign and harmful toxic materials.
The senses are also said to be enhanced by continuous use of oil pulling, as it rejuvenates the cavities of the face where most senses are located. Reports of increased taste, smell, breathing, hearing, and even eye sight are common as the oils purify and cleanse the hollow cavities inside the head. Those suffering from bad breath, dry face and skin, dulled senses, fatigue and exhaustion, loss of taste, impaired vision, and sore throat have seen improvements through the use of oil pulling.
With oil pulling relatively few studies have been done, as it has only recently gained popularity in Western culture. Anecdotally the response is incredible positive and scouring the internet shows many purporting the numerous health claims that have indeed been backed up in small studies. When compared to standard mouthwash, as a control, oil pulling with sesame oil reduced plaque, modified gingival scores, and lowered microorganisms in those with plaque induced gingivitis greater than the control. It has also been shown to be as effective, if not more so, than chlorhexidine for treatment of chronic oral malodor (bad breath). Still, it is important to note that oil pulling is a relatively new study mainly backed by the anecdotal and historical records.
That being said, there are really no risks to using oil pulling as a way to supplement good oral care. The only danger comes from using oil pulling as a way to completely negate standard brushing procedures, but used in conjunction there has been many great successes with the technique. Oil pulling is a simple technique that is age-old shown over time and by many to increase their general oral health in ways that a standard anti-septic or anti-microbial mouthwash cannot as it reaches deep into the gums and pulls the toxins from the mouth.