What is oil pulling?

We have had a number of patients ask us about this recently, so here’s our two cents on this hot topic.

imagesOil pulling is when you take an oil such as sesame, coconut, olive or sunflower and swish it around your mouth for 20 minutes then spit it out. Those who do this have claimed to have fresher breath, whiter teeth, less cavities, and overall revitalized feeling. (Users have also reported curing of hangovers)

Now that we know what it is, what does the science say about oil pulling.

We were only able to find one specific study that many proponents on the web are citing. This study was completed by Asokan S et al (2009), in the Indian Journal of Dental Research. This study looked at 10 individuals who practiced oil pulling with sesame oil over the course of 10 days. At the end of the study those individuals had less plaque and decrease in the number of bacteria present in their mouths.

It is difficult to come to any definitive conclusions as to the efficacy of oil pulling based on a study of 10 individuals. A much larger study group would be needed for more accurate data. With that being said, oil pulling does reduce the amount of oral bacteria and at this time there is no literature reporting that the practice is harmful.

As for the claims of whiter teeth and the cure for hangovers, no evidence supports this. So if you have an extra 20 mintues oil pulling does seem to have some oral benefits. But if you don’t have the extra time we suggest using a well studied and proven mouth rinse such as cholorhexidine (which was the rinse used as the control in the above study) or Listerine which will get you the same if not better results for less than 1 minute a day.