Oil pulling may be beneficial for reducing bacteria in the mouth, improving gum health, and preventing issues like bad breath and cavities. It’s also simple and easy to add to your routine.
Oil pulling is an ancient practice that involves swishing oil in your mouth to remove bacteria and promote oral hygiene.
It is often associated with Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system from India.
Studies suggest that oil pulling can kill bacteria in the mouth and improve dental health. Some alternative medicine practitioners also claim that it can help treat several diseases.
While it’s not entirely clear how oil pulling works, it’s claimed to “pull” bacteria from the mouth. It may also help by moisturizing your gums and increasing saliva production, which can reduce bacteria.
Some oil also contains properties that can naturally reduce inflammation and bacteria to promote oral health.
However, research on oil pulling is limited, and there is much debate over its benefits.
This article looks at some of the science-backed benefits of oil pulling and then explains how to do it to maximize its effectiveness.
1. Oil pulling can reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth
Approximately 700 types of bacteria can live in your mouth, and up to 350 of them may be found in your mouth at any given time.
Certain harmful bacteria can contribute to problems like tooth decay, bad breath, and gum disease.
Several studies have shown that oil pulling could help reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
In one study, 75 adolescents either used an antibacterial mouthwash or did oil pulling with sesame oil daily.
After 15 days, the mouthwash and oil pulling significantly reduced the harmful bacteria found in the saliva and plaque.
Another study found similar results. It had 60 participants rinse their mouths using mouthwash, water, or coconut oil for 2 weeks. Both mouthwash and coconut oil reduced the number of bacteria found in saliva.
Decreasing the number of bacteria in the mouth can help support proper oral hygiene and prevent some conditions.
2. Oil pulling could help reduce bad breath
Halitosis, also known as bad breath, is a condition that affects an estimated 50% of the population.
There are many potential causes of bad breath.
Most common include infection, gum disease, poor oral hygiene, and tongue coating when bacteria become trapped on the tongue.
Treatment typically includes the removal of the bacteria, either through brushing or by using an antiseptic mouthwash like chlorhexidine.
Interestingly, one 2011 study found that oil pulling was as effective as chlorhexidine at reducing bad breath.
In the study, 20 children rinsed with either chlorhexidine or sesame oil, both of which caused a significant decrease in levels of the microorganisms known to contribute to bad breath.
Though more research is needed, oil pulling may be a natural alternative to reduce bad breath and be as effective as traditional treatments.
3. Oil pulling may help prevent cavities
Cavities are a common problem that stems from tooth decay.
Poor oral hygiene, overeating sugar, and a buildup of bacteria can all cause tooth decay, which leads to the formation of holes in the teeth, known as cavities.
Plaque can also cause cavities. Plaque forms a coating on teeth and comprises bacteria, saliva, and food particles. The bacteria begin to break down the food particles, forming an acid that destroys tooth enamel and causes tooth decay.
Several studies have found that oil pulling can help reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth, preventing tooth decay.
Some research has found that oil pulling may decrease the harmful bacteria in saliva and plaque as effectively as a mouthwash.
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Decreasing these strains of bacteria through oil pulling could help prevent tooth decay and reduce the risk of cavity formation.
4. Oil pulling seems to reduce inflammation and improve gum health
Gingivitis is a gum disease marked by red, swollen gums that bleed easily.
The bacteria found in plaque are a significant cause of gingivitis, as they can cause bleeding and inflammation in the gums.
Fortunately, oil pulling may be an effective remedy to improve gum health and reduce inflammation.
It works primarily by decreasing the harmful bacteria and plaque in the mouth that contribute to gum disease, such as Streptococcus mutans.
Using certain oils with anti-inflammatory properties, like coconut oil, may also reduce gum disease’s inflammation.
In one study, 60 participants with gingivitis began oil-pulling with coconut oil for 30 days. After 1 week, they had reduced amounts of plaque and improved gum health.
Another older study of 20 boys with gingivitis compared the effectiveness of oil pulling with sesame oil and a standard mouthwash.
Both groups showed a decrease in plaque, an improvement in gingivitis, and a reduction in the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
While more evidence is needed, these findings suggest that oil pulling may be an effective supplementary treatment to prevent plaque formation and promote healthy gums.
5. Oil pulling may have other benefits
Although proponents of oil pulling claim that it may benefit a wide variety of other conditions not mentioned above, research on the benefits of oil pulling is limited.
That said, the anti-inflammatory effects of oil pulling may benefit certain conditions linked to inflammation.
While no studies have evaluated the effectiveness of oil pulling on these conditions, it may be possible, given its potential to relieve inflammation.
Furthermore, there is anecdotal evidence that oil pulling could be a natural way to whiten teeth.
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Some claim that it can pull stains from the surface of teeth, resulting in a whitening effect, although there is no scientific research to back this up.
6. Cheap and easy to add to your routine
Two of the most significant benefits of oil pulling are how simple it is and how easily it can be incorporated into your daily regimen.
Additionally, it requires just one ingredient that can be found right in your kitchen, so there’s no need to buy anything.
Traditionally, sesame oil has been used for oil pulling, but other oil types can also be used.
For example, coconut oil possesses strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can be especially useful for oil pulling. Olive oil is another popular choice thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation.
To get started, set aside just 20 minutes each day for oil pulling and use the extra time to multitask around home, all while improving your oral hygiene.
How to do oil pulling in 4 simple steps
Oil pulling is easy to do and involves just a few simple steps.
Here is how you can try oil pulling:
- Measure one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of oil, such as coconut, sesame, or olive oil.
- Swish it around in your mouth for 15–20 minutes, being careful not to swallow any.
- Spit the oil into a trash can once you’re done. Avoid spitting it into the sink or toilet, as this can cause a buildup of oil, which may lead to clogging.
- Rinse your mouth well using water before eating or drinking anything.
Repeat these steps a few times per week or up to three times daily. You may also want to work your way up, starting with swishing for just 5 minutes and increasing the duration until you can do it for a full 15–20 minutes.
For best results, most recommend doing this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, although you can adapt based on your personal preferences.
Some studies suggest that oil pulling may decrease harmful bacteria in your mouth, prevent plaque formation, and improve gum health and oral hygiene.
However, the research is relatively limited.
Additionally, note that it should not be used in place of traditional oral hygiene practices, such as brushing your teeth, flossing, getting routine cleanings, and consulting a dentist regarding any oral hygiene problems.
Yet when used as a supplementary treatment, oil pulling may be a safe and effective natural remedy to improve oral health.