Ancient Technique for Modern Issues
Oil Pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique that pulls toxins from soft tissue. Oil pulling is a simple and effective modality for improving the overall health of the oral environment by removing toxins, breaking up biofilm, and increasing the overall health of the gums. Oil pulling is also effective for overall systemic health through indirect healing of cells, tissues, and organs by supporting the body’s elimination of toxic waste without disturbing healthy microflora. Perform daily for a minimum of two weeks.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique for healing cells, tissues, and organs by supporting the body’s elimination of toxic waste without disturbing healthy microflora. It involves swishing sesame oil in the mouth for 20 minutes, first thing in the morning.
History of Oil Pulling
The Charaka Saṃhitā is a Sanskrit text on Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) and is one of two foundational Hindu texts on this field that survived from ancient India. The text dates to pre-2ndcentury and consists of eight books that address everything from ancient theories on human body, symptomology, and therapeutics for a wide range of diseases to the importance of diet, hygiene, and preventative medicine.
The Charaka Saṃhitā was the first text to talk about sesame oil swishing in the mouth as a daily morning routine for optimal gum, teeth, and oral tissue health.
The exact beneficial effects were described as follows:
“It is beneficial for strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables.”
—Charaka Saṃhitā Ch V - 78 to 80
How Do I Oil Pull?
Oil Pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Pour one tablespoon of sesame (or sunflower) oil into mouth.
- Slowly swish oil around the entire mouth, pulling the oil left and right, front and back. Do not tilt head back or gargle. Draw oil between teeth and roll it around your tongue.
- After a bit, tilt chin up slightly, and begin a chewing motion. This motion triggers a digestive cascade in the mouth, producing extra saliva and enzymes.
- After 20 minutes, spit well repeatedly into toilet (so as not to clog sink). NEVER swallow the oil as it has bound to bacteria and toxins.
- Rinse with warm water, and brush meticulously with a non-fluoridated toothpaste.
How Often Do I Oil Pull?
In the beginning, to experience full therapeutic benefits, oil pull every morning for a minimum of two weeks straight. For an actual physical oral issue like gum inflammation, infection, or periodontitis, a full month could be better. Once you have finished the initial weeks, you can oil pull every other day for two weeks. After the full month, most people choose to enter a maintenance phase, performing oil pulling once or twice a week. If you are oil pulling for preventive reasons rather than for an actual condition, you may start with this maintenance phase.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
There are many claims on the internet regarding benefits of oil pulling. Some are true, and some are a stretch. One that should be clarified is that oil pulling will not REALLY whiten your teeth. What it will do is remove stain and break up biofilm that leads to hard yellow tartar. A more realistic description is that oil pulling brightens your teeth, restoring them to the shade they were before you developed plaque and stain.
Even though the oil is in the mouth, Ayurveda texts claim that oil pulling may cure about 30 systemic diseases, and even today it's widely discussed as a tool for detoxification of your whole body. During the maintenance phase, oil pull with sesame oil one week and with coconut oil the next in order to attend both to the mouth and the entire immune system.
The chewing motion as described in step three in the directions will stimulate saliva and active enzyme production, which will help draw toxins out of the blood, through the tissues, and into the oil. You oil pull for at least 20 minutes so there is enough time for the blood to circulate through the body and back into the oral region. After 20 minutes, the oil should be thinner and whitish. If it is still thick and yellow, continue pulling for a longer duration. Most people start each morning for about 10 minutes, and slowly increase their tolerance. Oil pulling in the shower or while drying hair may make the task less endless because you will be engaged with a normal morning routine.
Oil pulling removes toxins from soft tissues (gum, tongue, lips) and breaks up biofilm on the teeth. It will lead to healthier gums that are not inflamed and do not bleed, reduced pocket depths, normal tongue physiology, and smooth, uncracked lips. Oil pulling will NOT reverse decay but breaking up biofilm and balancing pH both facilitate saliva’s remineralization of teeth. We have also seen oil pulling aid in a variety of symptoms, including some odd syndromes like trigeminal neuralgia, phantom tooth pain (whether the extraction was recent or years ago), and lingering sensitivity from dental work.
Oil pulling is no longer “ancient medicine” or “unproven clinical experience.” Scientific studies from India have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Note: all studies were conducted using Sesame Oil.
- Oil pulling reduced counts of Streptococcus mutans bacteria1– a significant contributor to tooth decay – in the plaque and saliva of children; the study concluded that, "Oil pulling can be used as an effective preventive adjunct in maintaining and improving oral health."2
- Oil pulling significantly reduced plaque, improved gum health and reduced aerobic microorganisms in plaque among adolescent boys with plaque-induced gingivitis.3
- Oil pulling is as effective as mouthwash at improving bad breath and reducing the microorganisms that may cause it.4
- Oil pulling provides a beneficial cleaning action: "The myth that the effect of oil-pulling therapy on oral health was just a placebo effect has been broken, and there are clear indications of possible saponification and emulsification process, which enhances its mechanical cleaning action."5
1 Indian J Dent Res. 2011 Jan-Feb;22(1):34-7
2 J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7
3 Indian J Dent Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;20(1):47-51
4 J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2011 Apr-Jun;29(2):90-4
5 Indian J Dent Res. 2011 Jan-Feb;22(1):34-7
Which Oil Should I Use?
Oil pulling should be performed with sesame or sunflower oil. Sesame is the original oil described in the Ayurvedic texts, but both oils have been used for generations. In recent years, coconut oil has become popular because someone put it on the internet, and the information spread. While it is true that coconut oil has antibacterial properties and it might taste better than the other two, efficacy has not been proven through scientific research or through thousands of years of use. Whichever the oil, choose organic - so the oil that will be detoxifying your soft tissues starts free of toxins – and choose cold pressed. Cold pressed means the oil was obtained through a mechanical process called expeller pressing as opposed to the chemical extraction that uses hexane. While all expeller pressing is better than chemical processing, heat from friction can reach temperatures of 470°F, high enough to affect the oil. Cold pressed means the oil never rose above 120°F and maintains all its flavor, aroma, and nutritional value.