The ancient ayurvedic technique of oil pulling, also known as "kavala" or "gundush" has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is best known for its benefits on oral hygiene and the prevention of gingivitis and tooth decay. However, there are more benefits to this uncomplicated method of rinsing the mouth with oil than just dental care. Traditionally, it is also used for the detoxification and holistic treatment of many diseases.
What oil pulling actually is and what benefits it has, how it works and which oils we can use for oil pulling is what you will find out in our magazine article.
Ultimately, oil pulling simply means that oil in the oral cavity is "pulled" through the interdental spaces - hence the name.
Oil pulling is not a new trend, it has been around for thousands of years, being used for a variety of health issues. It is believed to derive from Ayurveda, the Indian "science of life". In fact, already in the first literature of the Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, oil pulling was explained and recommended.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is used for a variety of systemic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatism, headaches and migraines. Today, oil pulling is better known for its positive effect on oral hygiene such as helping against bleeding gums and bad breath, reducing plaque and fighting tooth decay. Let's look at some of the scientifically backed up benefits of oil pulling.
Naturally, when it comes to alternative medicine and practices, there is a lot of doubt and uncertainty. However, even studies suggest that oil pulling can kill bacteria in the mouth and therefor improve dental health. Alternative medicine practitioners also claim that oil helps treating more than 30 diseases and health issues. (1).
How oil pulling works is not entirely known but it is assumed to activate salivary enzymes which absorb toxins such as chemical toxins, bacterial toxins and environmental toxins from the blood and pulls them from the body through the mouth. This way, oil pulling detoxifies the whole body. This however, is subject of debate.
Let's focus on what's science-backed.
#1 Killing harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Did you know that there are approximately 700 types of bacteria that can live in your mouth? An overgrowth of certain harmful bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, may lead to cavities. Other downfalls may be bad breath and gum disease.
Studies suggest that oil pulling may bring relief. For example, two groups have been formed each consisting of 10 age-matched adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis. The study group was given sesame oil for oil pulling while the control group used chlorhexidine mouthwash every morning before brushing the teeth.
After ten days there was a significant reduction of the pre- and post-values of the plaque and modified gingival index scores and a considerable reduction in the total colony count of aerobic microorganisms in both groups.
When it comes to oral hygiene, decreasing the number of bacteria in the mouth is important.
#2 Could beat bad breath.
Bad breath can be dreadful for people suffering from it. In the worst case, it can even be socially isolating as people become anxious to move around others.
The technical term for bad breath is halitosis and it affects 25% of the population on estimation. The most common cause of bad breath is bad oral hygiene as the breakdown of leftover food particles by bacteria produces sulfur compounds. If oral hygiene is lacking, a film of bacteria called plaque builds up. This plaque may lead to irritation of the gums and cause inflammation between the teeth and gums called periodontitis.
Treatments against halitosis include brushing the teeth and the tongue to remove bacteria, food, and dead cells commonly build up on the tongue, flossing, and using an antiseptic mouthwash like chlorhexidine.
Studies have shown, that oil pulling against bad breath is just as effective. In a three week randomized controlled trial 60 people were randomized into three groups: one chlorhexidine group, one sesame oil group and one control group.
The results showed that oil pulling with sesame oil was just as effective in reducing oral malodor as chlorhexidine was and may be an alternative to commonly used mouthwash.
#3 May prevent cavity-causing bacteria from spreading.
As kids, we were always warned not to eat too much sugar or else our teeth would get bad. That wasn't a lie. Eating too much sugar as well as poor oral hygiene can cause tooth decay. In the worst case, little holes start to form, known as cavities.
As mentioned already, cavity, or "dental caries", comes from an overgrowth of certain harmful bacteria in your mouth, such as Streptococcus mutans. These nasty little creatures break down food particles, forming an acid that destroys tooth enamel.
In fact, oil pulling may just be as effective as mouthwash when it comes to killing harmful bacteria in your mouth. The bonus of oil pulling: It kills those harmful bacteria without destroying the good bacteria that your mouth actually needs.
#4 May improve gum health.
Have you ever experienced brushing your teeth and spitting blood afterwards? That's often the case when suffering from gingivitis.
The major cause for this is often bacteria that are found in plaque as they can cause inflammation in the gum.
Oil pulling has proven to be an effective remedy for this suffering as it improves gum health and reduces inflammation by decreasing the harmful bacteria and plaque in the mouth.
Also, coconut oil has shown beneficial for reducing the inflammation associated with gum disease as it contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Let's bring on the most important thing when pulling oil first: you need time! In Ayurveda, 20 minutes are suggested. You should at least do it ten minutes. This can be a real challenge, because you should do the oil pulling in the morning on an empty stomach and we all know how stressful mornings can be. It is even better if you keep the oil in your mouth for about three to four minutes, then spit it out and do it again with fresh oil. That's how you exclude a re-poisoning.
Before you start, you should cleanse your tongue with a tongue cleaner. This will make the tongue clean and pink and halitosis will be reduced. Taste perception also becomes finer and more sensitive.
Now the actual oil pulling can start. Put a tablespoon of oil in your mouth and keep the oil moving nicely in your mouth. By pulling the oral oil through the interdental spaces pads, harmful bacteria are solved. After about ten to 20 minutes you can spit out the oil. Beware that you should not spit it in the sink or the toilet though, otherwise the toxins that the oil now contains go directly into the water cycle. It's best to simply spit it in a handkerchief and dispose of it in the wastepaper basket.
Oils used for oil pulling should be one thing above all: high quality. Cold-pressed vegetable oils such as olive or sunflower oil are best suited. In India, sesame oil is used. Rapeseed, linseed and coconut oil are also suitable for mouthwash.
A lot of people swear by coconut oil. This oil has the advantage that it is not only an anti-inflammatory powerhouse, but also contains lauric acid, which is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) that has proven to be incredibly effective at killing bad bacteria in your mouth that contribute to tooth decay.
Meanwhile, there are also numerous finished dental care products, which are often accompanied by a refreshing mint flavor flavor. These are ideal for on the go.
Sunflower oil goes back to the russian tradition of oil pulling. It is cheap and has a light taste. However, a lot of low-quality sunflower oil is being sold these days. That's why you should pay close attention to a trusted manufacturer.
Sesame oil is the original oil used in ayurvedic oil pulling. Make sure that you are only using cold-pressed and unheated sesame oil. This is then also very light in taste.
One major benefit of sesame oil is its capability to penetrate deeply into the tissue and bring harmful substances to the surface. It especially helps with gingivitis and periodontal disease and contains the powerful antioxidants sesamol and sesamolin.
Flaxseed oil has particularly healing effects on the mouth- and throat area. In folk medicine, the oil was used to help with asthma, cough, bronchitis, and hoarseness, among others. Because of its harsh taste, it is best mixed 1:1 with sunflower oil. Because of its high amount of alpha-linoleic acid, you shouldn't keep flaxseed oil for too long after opening it. Therefore, only mix small quantities and keep it in the fridge.
Coconut oil is the classic among oils for oil pulling. On the one hand, it has a very pleasant taste, on the other hand it has strong antibacterial powers. It is particularly good for the oral flora.
I guess, olive oil is the most famous and most used oil of them all. It's an essential in every healthy kitchen not only because of its good taste but also because of its positive effect on the health.
The quality level is particularly important for olive oil. For oil pulling, you should only use cold-pressed, virgin olive oil.
While some of the oil pulling benefits such as improving gum health or preventing cavities are science-backed, there are some acclaimed benefits that are nothing more than a myth.
Let's have a look at some of the things oil pulling can't do:
#1 Oil pulling won't whiten your teeth.
A lot of people claim to have gotten whiter teeth since starting with oil pulling. While it might help improve the appearance of your teeth by removing stains that were caused by bacteria, it won't actually whiten your teeth.
#2 Oil pulling won't replace brushing your teeth and flossing.
Oil pulling is a great method to add to your oral hygiene as it has a lot of benefits on your mouth- and throat are. However, while it definitely helps to reduce plaque and cavity-causing bacteria, it will never replace brushing your teeth and flossing. Look at oil pulling as an add-on, not a replacement.
#3 Oil pulling won't cure disease.
Remember the benefits Ayurvedic tradition claims to have on diseases such a rheuma, asthma, or migraines?
Well, unfortunately there is no evidence backing up those claims. Maybe oil pulling helps - maybe not. Unfortunately, there is no better way to put it.
As shown in this article, there are several studies proving the benefits of oil pulling in decreasing harmful bacteria in the mouth, improving gum health and oral hygiene, and preventing plaque formation.
Unfortunately, the research is very limited and science has yet a long way to go to prove all the claimed benefits oil pulling has on our health.
Also, make sure to not replace traditional oral hygiene practices such as brushing your teeth or flossing with oil pulling and always talk to your dentist about any problems.
However, oil pulling might add some great benefits to your traditional oral hygiene practice and be a safe and effective natural remedy to improve your oral health.