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October 19, 2015  | by Gina

Oil Pulling: Is the Benefit Real?

Have you heard of “oil pulling”? The practice involves filling one’s mouth with a vegetable-based oil (an essential oil, sesame oil, virgin coconut oil, oregano oil or one of several others), and swishing with it for 3, 4, or as many as 20 minutes (depending on the set of recommendations you are following), then spitting it out. This natural health trend is being touted by many as having curative properties. Those loyal to the regimen claim that it kills harmful bacteria in the mouth, without harsh chemical ingredients. Conjecture as to its efficacy (if any) includes the fact that lauric acid (a component of coconut oil only) kills Streptococcus mutans (a bacterium that causes cavities). There is also the possibility that lipid-wrapped plaque adheres to oil and is washed away, or that natural oils contain beneficial antioxidants and promote healing. Claims made by the faithful include the reversal of gingivitis, cavity prevention, and reduced plaque.

The practice of swishing oils in the mouth is actually an ancient Indian folk remedy, and can be found in Ayurvedic texts dating as far back as 700 B.C. But is there current, clinical evidence to support it? Not a lot - not as yet. Studies done at this time are few, and smaller in scope - however, the results have been positive thus far. Some potential detractors might include the unlikelihood that a three to twenty minute regimen is a realistic addition to anyone’s hygiene routine, in these more modern times. In addition, enough coconut oil might clog your sink, if you forget to spit it in the garbage can! (It is semi-solid at room temperature). At worst, clogged plumbing seems to be the greatest danger here, if you are game to try it out. We’d love to hear about your experiences with oil pulling, if you have any - but remember, all the studies thus far demonstrate that it can’t substitute for the proven benefits of brushing and flossing (which certainly take less time, to be sure).