The Oily Truth

The Oily Truth

As of late, many home-based Millennial blogs have exploded with the implementation of an age-old remedy into a dental hygiene routine known as oil-pulling. Albeit probably several thousands of years old and originally from an Ayurvedic Indian technique, the idea was not brought to the Western world until the early 21st century. In 2008, Bruce Fife, author and certified nutritionist, wrote “Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing”. From there the concept grew steadily and gained quite a following. The trend made a comeback in 2014, where many female millennial bloggers (like a domino effect) brought it forth into the modern eye once more.

After it was discovered to have some viable testimonies, oil-pulling quickly became a well-known sensation.

How Do You Do It?

The idea is to take 1-2 tablespoons of unrefined organic coconut, sesame, or olive oil and swish it around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. Many regular “pullers” like to spend this time answering emails, folding laundry, or showering – basically any 20-something minute activity that involves no speaking. When finished, one spits into a trash can and then continues their daily oral regimen as normal (brushing and flossing). The objective is to rinse the mouth of plaque similar to what a mouthwash will do – but instead of disinfecting the surface areas of the mouth with alcohol and harsh chemicals, toxins are supposedly “pulled” and plaque is loosened from the teeth and gums (NEVER recommended for kids).

Testified Benefits vs. Science

Because every mouth and oral health history can drastically differ from one person to the next, these “cures” are not one-size fits all, nor have all been verified by clinical studies. Here are some reported (not proven) health betterments from oil-pulling advocates representing all walks of life.

  • Natural teeth whitener
  • Strengthens gums/teeth/jaw (stronger jaw muscles can be attributed to the amount of mouth-movement it requires to swish that long every day)
  • Hangover and migraine cure
  • Helps with tooth grinding/tooth sensitivity
  • Improves halitosis or bad breath
  • Prevents cavities/tooth decay (sadly there is not much you can do to cure cavities other than having them removed by a dentist)
  • Detoxifies
  • Alleviates mouth pain
  • Balances hormones
  • Clears up acne & even eczema on the scalp

The list goes on and on! Yet the truth is that less than half of these healing properties can be traced back to any scientific data. As there are so many different factors that could interfere with studying the oil-pulling effects on the rest of the body (diet, body weight, uncontrolled environments, family medical history, etc), really the only way to reduce variables is to test that which takes place inside the mouth. Many of us would like to believe that fitting an additional 20 minutes into our daily routine could be a cure-all to nearly every aspect of our physical problems. While it generally would not be, any medical professional will tell you regardless that oral health and overall health are directly linked. Every life-threatening disease has an oral symptom or origin. For example, individuals with heart disease more often than not have some level of gum disease. Therefore, if oil-pulling has obvious oral benefits, it is only logical that there would be additional outward benefits.

Young beautiful brunette woman using mouthwash at her bathroom

Although not typically dentist recommended, controlled scientific studies have reassured us that, unless swallowed, oil-pulling is not harmful in any way. Swallowing oil permeated with bacteria can be known to cause upset stomach and diarrhea. In incredibly rare cases, when small amounts of oil are inhaled by mistake, it can cause lipoid pneumonia (one of the main reasons it is not recommended for children).

Mouthwash, (which much of society uses daily) is advertised as being able to eliminate 99% of germs – that includes the good germs, too! An organic oil can swish out enamel-eroding bacteria but enable healthy bacteria to live. Therefore coconut or sesame oil can be arguably a better alternative to mouthwash. In addition, it can remove plaque because of the intense pushing of fluids around in the mouth, and this can lead to visibly whitened teeth and most certainly reduce chance of cavities.

If oil-pulling works for an individual, and perhaps has more remedial effects outside of the mouth, more power to them! Again, just because it has never been proven that oil-pulling can or cannot improve any one aspect of oral health, does not mean it can’t. The practice should always be accompanied by brushing and flossing and never used by itself as a treatment. Built-up plaque is the cause of most dental problems, so eliminating this is half the battle. Doing so can have enormous oral and therefore bodily health benefits, regardless of how you choose to do it.