Oil Pulling: The instant benefits of this ancient Ayurvedic cleansing technique

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling is the act of rinsing the mouth with oil to remove bad breath and bacteria. It is done to maintain overall oral hygiene. It is simple and can be easily done at home. The term “oil pulling” was named such that the oil pulls the bacteria from the mouth. This practice helps in keeping your gums moist and helps in stimulating the saliva production.

What are the benefits of oil pulling?

Kills the harmful bacteria living in your mouth

You must know that there are approximately 350 types of bacteria that reside in your mouth. Some of these bacteria cause gum diseases, tooth decay, and even bad breath. Oil pulling has shown to reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth. By reducing the number of bacteria in the mouth, good oral hygiene can be enabled.

It reduces bad breath

Halitosis is a condition of bad breath caused usually by certain food particles remaining in the mouth. This, along with the bacterial infection in the mouth contributes to bad oral health. Bad breath affects nearly 50% of the population. Oil pulling was as efficient as an anti-bacterial mouth wash by notably reducing the bacterial levels present to the mouth.

It prevents cavities

Cavities are nothing but a pit in the tooth due to tooth decay. If an individual has poor oral hygiene, consumes too much of sugary based foods, it will lead to the growth of the decaying bacteria. These factors contribute to the decay of the tooth resulting in holes on the tooth called as cavities. In other cases, a coating on the teeth (plaque) comprised of the same combination (saliva, food particles and bacteria) can also cause cavities as the bacteria utilize the food particles and produce acid which damages the tooth layers. Many studies point to oil pulling working just like any mouthwash by reducing the number of bacteria as well as the number of plaques. This reduction will minimize the risk of tooth decay.

Seems to Reduce Inflammation and Improve Gum Health

Gingivitis is gum disease due to inflamed gums (red, swollen gums that bleed easily). In a plaque, the bacteria present can be the underlying reason for gingivitis. The oil via oil pulling, coats the teeth and the gums. This prevents the bacteria from coming together and forming a clump and prevents plaque formation. The bleeding of the gums caused by the plaque bacteria is prevented, the teeth also tend to become whiter and the breath tends to smell fresh. Oil pulling has the property to reduce the bacterial population thereby minimizing the infection. In fact, using oils like coconut oils helps in soothing the inflammation.

Oil pulling can have other benefits as well

Certain oils like olive oil, etc., contain antioxidants (compounds that protect the cells from unstable compounds or entities). These antioxidants damage the cell wall of microorganisms and kill them. Oil pulling is not just to clean off bacteria, but some oils (like coconut oil, olive oil, etc.) have anti-inflammatory properties as well.

Here, the oils attract the bacterial cells, causing it to stick to the oil or in other words the bacterial cells get pulled into the oil. Olive oil contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acids and also phenolic compounds, vitamin A, E, and K. All of these are nutritious and they also help in creating the antioxidant and anti-bacterial effect. You should know that oil pulling will not cure or revert your dental caries that have already been caused.

Studies show a 50% decrease in the gingival plaques after 4 weeks of oil pulling regime. Components of coconut oil mix with the saliva creating a soapy consistency and this help in washing away the bacteria from your teeth and gums. In fact, using mouthwashes more often can also result in staining or tongue sensory problems. Coconut oil also has anti-viral compounds present in it. The problems of dry mouth or dry throat or chapped lips is solved by oil pulling.

Oil pulling is less expensive and can be easily included into your oral cleaning regime Oil pulling is very simple and can be done daily. It uses oil that is easily available in the kitchen. If you can spare about 20 minutes every day to do oil pulling, then you are treated with good oral health.

How to perform oil pulling?

Oil pulling is very simple and easy to perform. You can follow the instructions given below:

  • Take one tablespoon of oil available (coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, etc.).
  • Rinse the oil or swish it for about 15 to 20 minutes till the oil becomes thin and whitish in color. Do not swallow the oil.
  • Once you are finished, spit out the oil into dust bin as this swished oil contains a lot of bacteria. You do not want to risk the clogging by spitting it out in the sink or toilet.
  • Using water, rinse your mouth properly before eating or drinking anything.
  • Perform these steps first thing in the morning. Here, oil pulling removes great amounts of bacteria. After this, you can brush your teeth to completely clean off your mouth from the toxins present.

Systemic effects of oil pulling

Oil pulling benefits are not just confined to oral health. There are also very useful for other systems as well. What we eat or the status of oral health impacts our system as well. Various disorders like cardiovascular diseases and stroke can be caused by the bacteria entering the bloodstream through the mouth. In fact, even sinus and ear infections, throat infections and pneumonia can be caused by the infection within the mouth.

Oil pulling with coconut oil

Coconut oil has a high saponification index (a value which represents the amount of a base required to be mixed with 1 gram of the oil (acid) to form soap or salt). Coconut oil contains a compound called lauric acid. The lauric acid reacts with alkalis present in saliva to form a soap-like substance. The soap-like nature makes the bacteria to lose its grip and hence the bacteria tend to get easily washed away. When you create lather while washing your hands, you now know the underlying reason on how the bacteria get cleaned off your hands.

The coating effect of the oil in oil pulling thus prevents the sticking of the bacteria on the gums or the teeth. This prevents the bacteria from gathering together and even spreading. The lauric acid that is present in coconut oil, has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory properties, prevents dental caries and effective in the maintenance of oral health. It also has a pleasant taste.

It is a good moisturizer and does not cause as brown staining or altered taste sensation. Coconut oil also contains monolaurin which is effective against microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, CandidaHelicobacter pylori, Escherichia vulnerisand Enterobacter sp.

You can prevent or even treat mouth sores with coconut because of its lauric acid content. There are theories pointing out to monolaurin causing bacterial death by altering bacterial cell wall, penetrating it and disrupting cell membranes. It also inhibits the enzymes that are involved in energy production and nutrient transfer. Monolaurin also has anti-viral activity. It solubilizes the vital compounds present in the viral outer coat. This will lead to the breakdown of the virus. Monolaurate also has anti-caries property as it prevents sugar metabolism by bacteria.

Oil pulling with olive oil

Olive oil contains 70% monounsaturated fatty acids of oleic acid is the main entity. It also contains plant phenolic compounds, vitamin A, E, and K. All of these nutrients possess antimicrobial, immune enhancing and antioxidant effect. Sadly, oil pulling using olive oil produces an unpleasant smell.

Drawbacks of oil pulling

It may increase dryness in the mouth. Oil pulling involves swishing of the oil. So, when you swish your mouth with the oil, it also results in mixing of the saliva. Also, after oil pulling, since you tend to brush your teeth, it can dehydrate your oral cavity.

It can also cause lipoid pneumonia. Lipoid pneumonia is a suffocating disorder of the lungs caused due to deposition of the fat particles. The fat particles from the oil used in oil pulling can enter the lungs and may contribute to lipoid pneumonia.

Oil pulling can also trigger a stomach upset. This is because, if you accidentally swallow the oil during the oil pulling, the contaminated oil entering your stomach and the very fact that you are swallowing oil will trigger stomach upsets like nausea or diarrhea.

The swishing of the oil may add to the thickness of the mucus or the phlegm in your mouth. This can make it uneasy for you as the thick phlegm is more difficult to spit out.

Because the stomach is upset, it can result in loss of appetite. This is because you are performing oil pulling on an empty stomach first in the morning. For oil pulling to be effective, you have to perform the swishing for nearly 15 minutes. This is a long time for swishing so you may experience some stiffness in your jaw.

It is important to choose the right oil brand as there are reports suggesting the presence of toxic heavy metals present in the oil. There are reports also suggesting the occurrence of blocked nasal passages. It may also result in loss of taste as a stomach upset, along with blocked nasal passages leading to loss of the appetite. This eventually reduces the loss of taste.

Tips to prevent potential drawbacks

  • If you are allergic to a certain oil type or a certain ingredient of the oil, you must avoid it.
  • It is not advisable for children below 5 years of age to perform this.
  • Use your tongue to swish the oil in and out, between your teeth.
  • Oil pulling must be done for 10 minutes at least. By doing so, you will reduce the viscosity of the oil. This will help minimize the effects of coughing or thick mucus or blockage of the nasal passages.
  • Wait for 20 minutes after oil pulling and brushing and then proceed to eat or drink.



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