Oil Pulling is the ancient practice of swishing approximately 1 tablespoon of oil — typically coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil — in your mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out.
The reported benefits of oil pulling claim to be whiter teeth, cavity and gingivitis prevention, better breath, less sensitive teeth/gums, and less plaque and oral bacterial accumulation. Although the masses entrenched in the numerous FB groups will testify to those claims, there is currently insufficient science to support any of them, and oil pulling is not a new practice; it dates back several thousand years.
The phrase “oil pulling” comes from the process of the oil being worked through the mouth by pulling, pushing, and sucking it through the teeth for at least 20 minutes per day. Consistent high-velocity swishing is thought to “clean” the teeth and the oil acts as a detergent to reduce plaque buildup. Coconut oil can be an organic substitute for mouthwash as it contains Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant, and also is reported to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties thanks to lauric acid and monolaurin.
There can be negative side effects affiliated with oil pulling that include dry mouth, excessive thirst, muscular stiffness, exhaustion, and a loss of sensation or taste in the mouth. Any person with heart attack risk or atheroma (degeneration of the walls of the arteries caused by accumulated fatty deposits and scar tissue) present in their vessels confirmed by a CIMT (Carotid Intima Thickness Test) or a positive Coronary Artery Calcium Scoring Test should avoid oils that can be used as building blocks of an atheroma. Oil pulling and its effects are superficial and will not reach deep pockets for anyone with periodontal disease. Therefore, it is important to understand there is no research supporting its use for a patient with periodontal disease.
Side note: coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and needs to be disposed of in a waste receptacle and not the sink. This oil can clog drains (AND YOUR HEART)!
When considering the practice of oil pulling, understand there is little research available on the effectiveness of these treatments to cure oral or other diseases. Oil pulling does NOT, will NOT, and can NOT reverse the effects of tooth decay. Regular oil-pulling routines should definitely not replace traditional at-home oral care or routine dental visits.