Whenever we can find a wellness protocol that has stood the test of time, we always pay special attention.
Call us anti-aggressive marketers, skeptical of newfangled stuff, or just old-fashioned—we simply have an affinity toward those tools that humans have been using for many years.
Oil pulling is one of these health-giving traditions.
We were first introduced to oil pulling several years ago as a simple way to create greater oral health and also detoxify the entire body.
Given that so much chronic disease we experience is due to lifestyle choices, oil pulling offers a simple solution to create greater oral health, help restore overall health and wellness, and even help us heal deep health issues like leaky gut.
Here’s everything you need to know to get started using this beneficial holistic practice.
What Is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient cleansing and detoxifying technique from Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India. The process is simply to swish (or pull) unrefined oils throughout the mouth for several minutes. Similar to what oil does in a car engine, oil pulling gathers all sorts of debris like bacteria, fungi, and viruses (aka ‘bad bugs’) into the oil to be spit out.
There have been wide-ranging claims for the benefits of oil pulling. However, one can expect to experience:
- Cleaner and fresher breath
- Whiter teeth (without the use of commercial whiteners that can damage teeth!)
- Reduced plaque on the teeth
- Overall increased oral health
But the benefits of oil pulling are not found in the mouth alone!
The mouth is a safe haven for pathogenic microbes to grow their numbers and gain access to the entire body through the bloodstream. That means creating a healthier mouth environment is hugely important to creating greater overall well-being!
Just take in this quote from Burton Goldberg, a respected voice in alternative cancer remedies:
“As much as 50% of the reversal of cancer is in the mouth.”
Additional benefits of oil pulling for overall well-being include:
- A decreased risk of migraines
- Increased energy
- Greater mental awareness
- Decreased joint pain and stiffness
- Less nasal and sinus congestion, and a decreased tendency to snore
All of these system-wide benefits make sense given that oil pulling helps us balance our oral flora, the oral microbiome, which as a result lowers the body burden caused by chronic inflammation.
But What Does Science Say About Oil Pulling?
Let’s highlight the results of three clinical studies that were conducted to test the benefits of oil pulling:
1. One study tested to see if oil pulling lowered gingivitis. The test revealed that oil pulling substantially lowered the bacteria responsible for gingivitis (early gum disease). (1)
2. A second study tested to see if oil pulling actually lowered the amount of strep mutans, the main bacteria that causes tooth decay. The results found that oil pulling did, in fact, demonstrate substantial benefits in lowering the amount of strep mutans in the mouth. This is why oil pulling can help to reduce tooth decay. (2)
However, reducing the population of strep mutans can benefit more than just the mouth. Recent research is showing a profound connection between strep mutans and both cardiovascular and degenerative brain issues.
3. A third study looked to discover the mechanism that made oil pulling so effective. The results pointed to the swishing action of oil pulling over the 10-20 minute period in the mouth. This emulsified the oil in the mouth, which was responsible for making oil pulling an effective antibacterial. (3)
What type of oil to use when oil pulling…
According to Dr Kulreet Chaudhary, world renown integrative neurologist who weaves Ayurvedic medicine into her neurology practice, using different types of oils while oil pulling can impact the body in different ways.
Traditionally, unrefined sesame oil was used for oil pulling. Depending on what particular health imbalances the person has, sometimes it is suggested that the sesame oil be heated first before oil pulling.
As a general go-to, we prefer coconut oil. Not only does coconut oil have numerous health benefits on its own, we also just prefer the taste.
If you’re looking to ‘just’ improve your oral health, coconut oil will work fine. However, if you’re looking to reach deeper into the detoxifying potential of oil pulling, sesame oil will better serve your needs.
Without getting too deep into the details, in Ayurvedic medicine, the most common type of toxin is called ‘ama’. Ama is a toxin that accumulates in the digestive tract and is caused by weak digestion or habitually eating foods that aren’t the best for your system.
You can learn more about how different oils help us achieve different oil pulling results in our free expert interview with Dr Chaudhary here.
Does it even have to be oil?
It depends on what you are looking to achieve. Using oil will help to ‘grab’ toxins just like oil in a car’s engine ‘grabs’ gunk.
However, if you gag at the thought of oil pulling or want to boost your oral health and don’t have oil handy, much of the cleansing benefits of oil pulling can be achieved by vigorously swishing water around the mouth.
And if you really want to take your oral health to the next level, try swishing your saliva!
Several years ago, we coined the term ‘mouth probiotics‘ to describe the ancient technique of swishing saliva around the mouth. Here’s a link to a silly video explaining Mouth Probiotics.
Swishing saliva adds another level of benefit by circulating probiotic oral bacteria around the mouth. This provides tremendous support along the path to optimizing one’s oral health, as we want to propagate the probiotic bacteria in the mouth so they will outnumber the ‘thug bugs’ that are trying to undermine our health.
What time of day is best for oil pulling?
You can oil pull at any time of the day. Traditionally, it is suggested to pull first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to help remove toxins that the body tried to purge overnight. Also, it’s really important to scrape your tongue after oil pulling to help remove the ama from the body.
The Oil Pulling Process:
1. Take roughly one tablespoon of oil in the mouth
2. Swish the oil around the mouth and through the teeth, using all the muscles in the face and throat. This is also a great exercise to maintain a toned face! Be sure to allow for active and more passive times during your practice.
3. Strive to swish for twenty minutes. It may take you a few times to work up to the full twenty minutes.
4. As the oil mixes with saliva, it will become very thin. This is normal and a good sign that you are able to oil pull for a longer period of time.
5. The oil is now full of all sorts of junk you want to get out of your body! Be very mindful not to swallow any of the oil–it takes focus!
6. Spit out the used oil into the trashcan or toilet so that it doesn’t clog up your sinks over time.
7. Immediately swish the mouth with fresh water to remove oil residue. We like to follow with a quick brush and tongue scrape.
You can learn other, finer points of oil pulling in the article, ‘Can oil pulling help heal leaky gut?’.
To Supercharge Your Oil Pulling
If you want to increase the cleansing reach of oil pulling, try adding a few drops of HealThy Mouth Blend into the oil you use for pulling!
Our Experience With Oil Pulling
We use all the products we sell here at OraWellness. As such, we have excellent oral health and don’t really need the bacteria-lowering benefit of oil pulling. However, we have noticed a natural whitening of our teeth from our regular oil pulling practice.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into natural ways to whiten your teeth without compromising your enamel, download our FREE resource guide, “How to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth (without destroying your enamel)”.
While we’re here, if you’re good with how white your teeth are but want to learn more how to remineralize your teeth, feel free to download our FREE resource guide “How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth”.
If you’re still not sure about what oil pulling can do for your oral health and overall well-being, there are heaps of resources online to help you continue your research.
Do you use oil pulling in your oral hygiene regimen? What benefits have you personally experienced?
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, and stories in the comments section below!
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to Balance Your Oral Flora [article]
Can Oil Pulling Help Heal Leaky Gut? [article]
3 Simple Mouth-Based Habits to Help Heal Leaky Gut [article]
4 Reasons Why Flosser Picks Are Not A Healthy Option [article]
3 Easy Ways To Keep Bad Bugs From Growing On Your Toothbrush [article]
How To Create Greater Oral Health For The Whole Family [article]
How To Brush Your Teeth To Reduce Gum Disease [article]
1. Indian J Dent Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;20(1):47-51. PMID: 19336860
2. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265
3. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265