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    Oil Pulling Benefits For a Healthier Mouth – Fitnessnacks



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    Oil pulling is an age-old regimen rooted in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. It’s now a home remedy that uses natural substances to clean and detoxify the mouth and teeth. But is there any evidence behind this practice and how do you do it? 

    Oil pulling, along with other elements of dental hygiene and regular dental visits, may help you avoid tooth decay and gum disease. It can also help whiten teeth naturally.

    What is Oil Pulling?

    The short answer is that it’s a process of swishing oil (usually sesame, sunflower oil, olive oil, or coconut oil) in the mouth for up to 20 minutes. The oil is then spat into the trash. The purpose is to improve oral health, and the best time to do it is on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.

    The basic idea is that swishing oil in the mouth for a short time each day helps pull out the bad stuff and improve oral health. It’s similar to oil cleansing for the skin in that the principle of “like dissolves like” applies. The oil cuts through plaque buildup and removes toxins without damaging the teeth or gums.

    The ancient practice of oil pulling (originally called gandusha) started in India thousands of years ago. But it wasn’t really used in the United States until recently. 

    It was first given the name “oil pulling” in the United States in the early 1990s. A medical doctor, Dr. F. Karach, used it successfully in his medical practice. He claimed it could potentially cure several diseases, including oral ones. The word spread quickly!

    Benefits of Oil Pulling

    Oil pulling is an oral care practice with lots of anecdotal support but a lack of extensive scientific studies. Although there are some… (See the references below). Most sources agree that oil pulling is safe but debate its effectiveness.

    Here are some of the reported benefits:

    • Whiter teeth 
    • Improvement of dry mouth (“xerostomia”)
    • Fewer cavities and cases of gingivitis
    • Reduced plaque
    • Stronger teeth and gums
    • Improved periodontal disease
    • Better breath (less “morning breath”)
    • Improvement in jaw pain (less TMJ pain)
    • Relief from sinus issues
    • Fewer headaches 
    • Better skin (less acne, eczema, and psoriasis)
    • Improved hormone balance
    • Less arthritis pain
    • And more…

    A 2022 meta-analysis found oil pulling could help lower overall bacteria count in the mouth, improving oral health. 

    That confirms what was highlighted the year before in 2021: When oil pulling, surface cells on the inside of the mouth are covered with oil droplets. There’s also more saliva production. The result is that the oil-saliva mix captures the bacteria during oil pulling, making it easy to remove by spitting it out.

    A 2021 study showed coconut and sesame oil both reduced plaque and discoloration.

    My Experience With Oil Pulling

    Though I’ve done this for a few years, my only personal experience is with increased oral health (no plaque) and less sensitive (and whiter!) teeth. Although I haven’t had personal experience with this, I’ve heard experts explain how bacteria and infections can enter the blood through the mouth. It does make sense that addressing these infections could impact other parts of the body. 

    At the very least, oil pulling can be beneficial. It should have no downside if it’s done correctly with a high-quality oil. The oil should be good enough quality to eat. Oil pulling is a very inexpensive therapy that could potentially benefit oral health. For those reasons, I see no downside to trying it and I’ve used it myself for several years.

    Although more scientific research is needed, I’ve noticed the benefits personally. Dozens of Wellness Mama readers also swear by its effectiveness. 

    How to Oil Pull

    The concept is simple: a person swishes a couple of teaspoons of fruit or seed-based oil (coconut, sesame, or olive) in the mouth for 20 minutes. They then spit it out and rinse well. It’s best to oil pull in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. However, it can be done before each meal, if needed, for more severe infections or dental problems.

    Virgin coconut oil is an excellent option because its lauric acid makes it naturally antibacterial. It has a milder taste than other oils. Anyone with an allergy to coconut oil or coconut products should avoid using coconut oil in this way. Ayurvedic Medicine traditionally used sesame oil, just make sure it’s organic.

    Oil Pulling Instructions

    • Put 1-2 teaspoons of oil into your mouth. The oil traditionally used in Ayurveda is organic sesame oil. Sesame is also the oil that’s been the most studied for use in oil pulling. Another option is organic coconut oil pulling. Whichever oil you choose, place 1-2 teaspoons in the mouth. I also pour a few drops of Brushing Blend (naturally antibacterial) into the mix. You can also plan ahead and make these easy coconut oil chews. 
    • Swish for 20 minutes. Timing is key. Dr. Bruce Fife is the author of a book on oil pulling called Oil Pulling Therapy. He says 20 minutes is long enough to break through plaque and bacteria but not so long that the body starts re-absorbing the toxins and bacteria. The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixes with saliva during this time. It should be creamy-white by the time it’s spat out. It will also double in volume during this time due to saliva. At first, it can be challenging to complete the full 20 minutes. I didn’t stress over it if I could only swish for 5-10 minutes when I first started.
    • Spit oil into the trash can. Especially if you have a septic system as I do. Don’t spit into the sink, as the oil may eventually clog the pipes. Don’t swallow the oil, either! Hopefully, it’s now full of bacteria, toxins, and pus that are being removed from the mouth!
    • Rinse well with warm water. Warm water seems to clean the mouth better (in my opinion). I swish a few times with warm water to get any remaining oil out of my mouth. Some sources recommend gargling with warm salt water.
    • Brush well. I prefer to brush with Wellnesse whitening toothpaste to ensure no bacteria remain.

    Is Oil Pulling Safe?

    Thankfully, this is one point all sources seem to agree on! Some sources claim that oil pulling doesn’t have the benefits often attributed to it or doesn’t actually detoxify the mouth. Still, all of them agree it shouldn’t cause side effects.

    The oils typically used for oil pulling are edible oils that are considered healthy when eaten. So, they aren’t problematic when swished in the mouth. The only potential danger is swallowing the oil after it’s absorbed bacteria or toxins from the mouth. Ick. You don’t want to do that! 

    I asked my dentist for his thoughts on oil pulling. He shared that while we need more research to know for certain, it could be an effective and safe alternative to mouthwash. 

    Prescription mouthwashes contain a chemical called chlorhexidine, which may be harmful. Studies show that some of these oils used in oil pulling were just as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash. Another option is to make this herbal homemade mouthwash.

    Which Oil is Best For Oil Pulling?

    The oil you use for oil pulling depends on your goals. If the goal is teeth whitening, I’ve found coconut oil to be the most effective (especially when combined with this unusual remedy). According to the British Dental Journal (BDJ), coconut oil is also slightly more effective at removing certain bacteria from the mouth. These include Streptococcus mutans bacteria known for causing dental caries.

    Sesame oil is the oil recommended by most sources (mostly because it was one of the more widely available oils when the practice began). It’s also the most well-studied and considered safe for those not allergic to sesame seeds. Sometimes olive oil is used, but it’s not as well studied.

    The main thing is to avoid using high Omega-6 or chemically created oils like vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc.

    Who Can Do Oil Pulling?

    Not every natural remedy is safe for everyone. Here’s the evidence on who can (and can’t) safely use oil pulling.

    Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

    I’ve done oil pulling during pregnancy, but I was also already doing it regularly before I got pregnant. I asked a midwife, and she said it’s generally considered safe for pregnant women, especially after the first trimester. 

    Oral hygiene is especially critical during pregnancy due to the risks of infection. So, I’ve always been glad to have an extra way to keep my teeth and gums healthy while pregnant. I consider it the same as tooth brushing, flossing, or using mouthwash. (This is purely anecdotal, but I haven’t had a cavity, even while pregnant since I started oil pulling and following my oral health routine). 

    A 2016 randomized controlled trial looked at oil pulling in pregnant women. The researchers found it was just as effective as chlorhexidine at fighting bad breath. This study didn’t raise any concerns about oil pulling during pregnancy.  

    Oil pulling is generally considered safe while nursing, but check with a dentist or doctor to be safe. As with anything, check with a doctor or midwife before starting oil pulling, especially if pregnant.

    Children

    Several practitioners I’ve asked about this assured me that oil pulling is safe for kids once they’re old enough not to swallow the oil.

    Those With Dental Issues

    I got the okay to do this from my dentist and doctor with several (non-amalgam) fillings in my mouth. But I’d recommend checking with a doctor or dentist to be sure, especially if you have any metal fillings, crowns, or dental problems. 

    Note: Some people may notice a detox reaction for the first few days of using oil pulling. This can include issues like mild congestion, headache, mucous drainage, or other effects. I personally didn’t notice these effects, but I’ve read cases of others who did.

    FAQs About Oil Pulling

    There are several questions that repeatedly come up about oil pulling, so I’ve compiled them here along with the most common answers. I also included any research I could find:

    Does Oil Pulling Help Remineralize Teeth?

    It may, but more research is needed. I talked about my personal experience remineralizing my teeth here. I used oil pulling as part of this protocol, but I suspect the benefit may have come from certain oils combatting the bacteria that cause tooth decay rather than actual mineral support for the tooth.

    Coconut and sesame oils aren’t excellent sources of the minerals that teeth need. So using them in the mouth may not be a very effective way to provide minerals for restoring teeth. Since we’re constantly replenishing the minerals in our teeth and enamel through saliva, it seems more important to ensure we’re getting enough minerals internally. Then they’re available in saliva.

     Can People With Fillings Try Oil Pulling?

    Dentist Lisa Matriste warns against oil pulling with amalgam (mercury) fillings. Mercury is lipophilic, meaning it’s attracted to fats. 

    “Oil pulling will pull mercury out of the fillings which will then be absorbed into your tissues, inadvertently poisoning your body with mercury at a faster rate.”

    She goes on to recommend having any mercury fillings removed before oil pulling. 

    That said, I couldn’t find any scientific research on the safety of oil pulling with fillings. There’s some anecdotal evidence it could loosen them.  Check with your dentist to see if oil pulling would be appropriate for your particular dental situation. 

    Does Oil Pulling Help Bad Breath? 

    There’s one benefit of oil pulling all sources seem to agree on: better breath. Likely because of its ability to help wipe out harmful bacteria in the mouth. Evidence shows oil pulling can help improve breathing and reduce plaque, which combats bad breath. 

    Can I Swallow the Oil? Or Where Should I Spit?

    Again, please don’t swallow the oil after oil pulling. It may contain bacteria, dead skin, or other residues from the mouth and the whole purpose is to remove these toxins from the body. It’s also important not to spit this in the sink, shower, or toilet, as it may solidify and clog the drain. This especially pertains to coconut oil, which hardens as it cools.

    I keep an old supplement container at my sink and spit the oil in it each morning. Then I throw it away when filled.

    Do I Have to Swish for 20 Minutes?

    I found it difficult to swish for 20 minutes when I first started. Though 20 minutes is the recommended timeframe, it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Neither is the recommendation to use a full tablespoon of oil. If you can only use a teaspoon and swish for 5 minutes, start with that and don’t stress about it. 

    Adding a drop of essential oil may also help with the taste and make oil pulling easier. Just make sure any oil you use is safe to use internally. 

    I also find the best time to oil pull is in the shower since this is the only time I’m not talking to my kids or doing something else. I don’t usually shower for 20 minutes, but this at least gets me part of the way through the time.

    Does Oil Pulling Work?

    My only personal experience is the oral health benefits, and I continue doing it for this reason. But there’s evidence that it might help with other conditions as well. The most comprehensive resource I’ve seen on the topic is the book “Oil Pulling Therapy” by Dr. Bruce Fife.

    The American Dental Association (ADA) doesn’t, at this point, recommend oil pulling. Their recommended therapy against cavities is still fluoride. Learn how terrible fluoride is for your body by reading this article.

    Although the research is limited, there are some scientific studies supporting the benefits of oil pulling. This includes its benefits for specific types of oral bacteria, dental caries, plaque/gingivitis, and oral micro-organisms. Because dental hygiene has a far-reaching impact throughout the body, oil pulling may improve overall health.

    Have you ever tried oil pulling? What was your experience? Share below!

    This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Steven Lin, who is a Board accredited dentist trained at the University of Sydney. With a background in biomedical science, he is a passionate whole-health advocate, focusing on the link between nutrition and dental health. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or dentist.

    Sources

    1. Peedikayil, F. C., Sreenivasan, P., & Narayanan, A. (2015). Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis — A preliminary report. Nigerian medical journal: journal of the Nigeria Medical Association, 56(2), 143–147. 
    2. Kapoor, U., Sharma, G., Juneja, M., & Nagpal, A. (2016). Halitosis: Current concepts on etiology, diagnosis and management. European journal of dentistry, 10(2), 292–300. https://doi.org/10.4103/1305-7456.178294
    3. Asokan, S., Rathan, J., Muthu, M. S., et al. (2008). Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, 26(1), 12–17. 
    4. Durai Anand, T. Pothiraj, C., Gopinath, R. M., et al. (2008). Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria (PDF). African Journal of Microbiology Research, 2(3), 63-66.
    5. HV Amith, Anil V Ankola, L Nagesh. Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque and Gingivitis. Journal of Oral Health & Community Dentistry: 2007; 1(1):Pages 12-18.
    6. Asokan, S., Emmadi, P., & Chamundeswari, R. (2009). Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian Journal of Dental Research, 20, 47-51.
    7. Thaweboon, S., Nakaparksin, J., & Thaweboon, B. (2011). Effect of oil-pulling on oral microorganisms in biofilm models. Asia Journal of Public Health, 2(2), 62-66.
    8. Peedikayil, F. C., Sreenivasan, P., & Narayanan, A. (2015). Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis – A preliminary report. Nigerian medical journal: journal of the Nigeria Medical Association, 56(2), 143–147. 
    9. Ludwar, L., Mannel, H., Hamacher, S., Noack, M. J., & Barbe, A. G. (2022). Oil pulling to relieve medication-induced xerostomia: A randomized, single-blind, crossover trial. Oral diseases, 28(2), 373–383. 
    10. Peng, T. R., Cheng, H. Y., Wu, T. W., & Ng, B. K. (2022). Effectiveness of Oil Pulling for Improving Oral Health: A Meta-Analysis – PMC. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 10(10), 1991.
    11. Sezgin, Y., Memis Ozgul, B., Mara?, M. E., & Alptekin, N. O. (2021). Comparison of the plaque regrowth inhibition effects of oil pulling therapy with sesame oil or coconut oil using 4-day plaque regrowth study model: A randomized crossover clinical trial. International journal of dental hygiene, 10.1111/idh.12532. Advance online publication. 
    12. Griessl, T., Zechel-Gran, S., Olejniczak, S., Weigel, M., Hain, T., & Domann, E. (2021). High-resolution taxonomic examination of the oral microbiome after oil pulling with standardized sunflower seed oil and healthy participants: a pilot study. Clinical oral investigations, 25(5), 2689–2703.
    13. Sheikh, F. S., & Iyer, R. R. (2016). The effect of oil pulling with rice bran oil, sesame oil, and chlorhexidine mouth rinsing on halitosis among pregnant women: A comparative interventional study. Indian journal of dental research : official publication of Indian Society for Dental Research, 27(5), 508–512. https://doi.org/10.4103/0970-9290.195638
    14. Sezgin, Y., Memis Ozgul, B., Mara?, M. E., & Alptekin, N. O. (2021). Comparison of the plaque regrowth inhibition effects of oil pulling therapy with sesame oil or coconut oil using 4-day plaque regrowth study model: A randomized crossover clinical trial. International journal of dental hygiene, 10.1111/idh.12532. Advance online publication. 
    15. Matriste, L. (2017, October 29). The truth about oil pulling: A dental perspective. Laser + Holistic Dental. 

    Oil pulling is an ancient practice that can whiten teeth, improve gums, bad breath and oral health by reducing bacteria, plaque, and infection in the mouth.



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