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white-teeth The practice of oil pulling involves the use of food-grade oils, such as coconut oil, as an agent for "pulling" away harmful toxins. Unwanted organisms from the mouth, teeth, gums, and throat are also thought to be removed.

What is Oil Pulling?

A general oil pulling technique involves swishing around 1 tbsp. of cold-pressed, organic sesame oil in the mouth for approximately 10-15 minutes. Following this, the oil should then be spit out and the mouth rinsed with clean, fresh water. It is believed that the toxins in the mouth are pulled into the oil during the swishing process, and spitting it out results in the removal of these toxic compounds. Other oils used in oil pulling include extra-virgin coconut and olive oil, preferably organic and cold pressed. Whether it's sesame, olive, or coconut oil, all contain essential fatty acids and antioxidants that are good for your gums and teeth.

How it Works

First, the oil mixes with the saliva, turning it into a thin, white liquid. Lipids in the oil supposedly pull out toxins from the saliva, cementing its claim as an efficient detoxifier. As the oil is swished around in the mouth, it continues to absorb toxins and usually ends up turning thick, viscous, and white. Once the oil has reached this consistency (typically after ten minutes), it is spit out before the toxins are reabsorbed.

Potential Benefits of Oil Pulling

The increasing interest surrounding oil pulling in the lay population has correspondingly increased scientific scrutinization of the practice. One study showed that oil pulling with sesame oil can boost overall oral health by significantly reducing Streptococcus mutans, a microbe that contributes to tooth decay. [1] Some scientists believe the lipids in the oil reduce the adhesion of bacteria to the teeth and gums, possibly explaining its bacteria-diminishing effects.

Other research shows that oil pulling can relieve bad breath. This same research has also shown that oil pulling can noticeably reduce the presence of plaque to support the health of teeth and gums. Research also shows that swishing with sesame oil produces a saponification process, or a process in which the oil produces a soap-like effect in the mouth. 

Some sources even claim that dental caries, or cavities, have also been shown to be reduced by up to 50% in persons who practice oil pulling. [4] The oil used in this study was sesame oil, perhaps one of the most popular oils used in oil pulling, and showed very powerful activity in the mouth. Just 40 days of oil pulling resulted in a 20% decrease in oral bacteria.

Benefits Beyond Dental Health?

Many holistic practitioners cite other benefits of oil pulling. It is believed that oil pulling stimulates the lymphatic system and aids in the transport of toxins away from vital organs. The reported benefits of oil pulling include: