oil pulling: the RESEARCH behind it

we’ve all seen these glorious posts and rave reviews about oil pulling, yes?

you know those really huge claims that pretty much say this one act 20 minutes a day cures all sorts of things? like halitosis, allergies, hormone imbalances, acne, psoriasis, etc…

my question has always been “where is the RESEARCH?” you can show me all the blogs in the world, but i’m gonna need some facts.

let’s look at this whole oil pulling craze and see if the benefits reach beyond having a healthier mouth!

why oil pulling doesnt work (and what to do instead!)

what IS oil pulling?

  • oil pulling stems from Ayurvedic oral care. it’s first mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, which is a key text of Indian traditional medicine.
  • it’s done by swishing a spoonful of oil around your mouth for about 20 minutes. it’s done first thing in the morning, every day, as a part of an oral health routine.
  • the oils that can be used are sesame and coconut oil as the 2 main contenders, with sunflower and olive also usable.
  • it does NOT replace brushing your teeth!

what are the claims?

  • oil pulling is widely touted as an all-natural way to promote overall oral health, whiten teeth, ward off gingivitis, fight plaque build-up, and help with teeth sensitivity.
  • other claims:
    • whiter teeth
    • healthier gums
    • clearer skin
    • prevent halitosis
    • prevent gingivitis
    • alleviate allergies
    • increase energy
    • decrease headaches
    • help with arthritis
    • decrease inflammation
    • improve the lymphatic system
    • help with asthma
    • balance hormones
    • regulate menstrual cycles and improve PMS symptoms
    • clear sinuses
    • ward off infections
    • improve liver function

where is the research?

from the articles i’ve seen, oil pulling is just a PART of improving health (like reducing strep mutagens after 2 weeks... which i’m skeptical of because your body will be fighting it off in that time regardless… and let’s also be polite and say there’s some heavy researcher bias in that study).

the following sources show that oil pulling is JUST AS effective as using a healthy mouth rinse – source 1 & source 2
and here is a direct quote from source 2- “Oil pulling therapy has been equally effective like chlorhexidine [mouthwash] on halitosis and organisms.”

additionally, the following article indicates that oil pulling is effective when used in combination with a salt water rinse – source

and then you have studies like this that say “results from the present study could be scientific evidence to demonstrate that oil-pulling therapy  with some edible oils could probably be used as a  preventive home therapy to maintain oral hygiene.” uhhh… so you’re telling me that your study MIGHT conclude that oil pulling MIGHT help oral hygiene? haha, okay…

and then there’s this article that says:
there is no reasearch on oil pulling

so far the research doesn’t show that it’s oil pulling that improves health.
that’s what i needed to know.

*no, i’m not saying it doesn’t improve your oral health. i’m very aware that it does! …keep reading…

bottom line:

Sesame seeds . Selective focus

not really.. meaning oil pulling works in a way… but not how it’s being touted. let’s check it out:

does it DETOX you? NO. that part is a huge load of crap. we have these really cool organs called livers and kidneys that do that for us. pretty neat!

so how does it work? oil pulling works by helping to support a healthy oral environment. it’s just another way to clean your mouth. it’s a small part of an overall routine. that’s it! with a cleaner, healthier mouth, your body can focus on other things. it’s a complete domino effect. oil pulling isn’t magic! your body is magic. simple.

so what does this mean? you can certainly see oral improvements. absolutely. but what you won’t see is a liver detox.

oil pulling isnt causing your improved health

Dr. Sanda Moldovan, a periodontist in Beverly Hills and a certified nutritionist with a Masters in oral biology, that teaches at UCLA’s dental school, had to say this about oil pulling improving health:

“When we improve oral health, we improve so many other things in the body. People with bad oral hygiene have higher incidence for cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and strokes, and a higher incidence for pneumonia. Men with periodontal disease have a greater risk of erectile dysfunction. Even with diabetes, improved oral health can help control problems in diabetic patients. Also, pregnant women with gum disease have lower birth-weight babies. Yes — everything is connected.” (source)

in other words, it’s not the fact that you’re oil pulling that’s the only thing at play. oil pulling (as with proper flossing, proper brushing, and mouth rinses as needed), can be a PART of a healthy oral care routine, that in turn helps you be a healthier person overall.

 

Let’s be clear. i am not discounting the oral benefits you can see from adding oil pulling to part of your oral care routine! i’m very aware those benefits are real. if you’re seeing benefits, and your health care professional supports it, keep at it! what i AM asserting is that oil pulling is Not magic. it does not detox you. it does not cure bodily ailments completely on its own. but rather, by oil pulling, you’re making your mouth healthier, which in turn makes your body healthier. the research indicates that using a healthy mouth rinse is JUST AS effective as oil pulling!

oil pulling - what it does and doesnt do

“but i’m seeing whitened teeth and healthier gums and less cavities!”

correct! you’ve improved your oral health care routine. of course you will see those benefits, barring you’re not allergic to or sensitive to the oils you choose to use.

that’s because you’re swishing a naturally anti-bacterial oil in your mouth that’s full of awesome things that support a healthy oral environment. and while you’re swishing, you’re also dislodging food particles that would have otherwise been stuck. that combined with the antibac action your mouth is gettin can be attributed to your improved mouth. bottom line, you can put some coconut oil in your mouth when you brush your teeth and floss properly, and get the same whitening/antibac effects.

you can also use a healthy mouth rinse to do the same things :)

Sesame seeds . Selective focus

if you can’t swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes, don’t worry! i personally can’t stand swishing oil around in my mouth for that long. i get gaggy.

you can still obtain a healthier mouth by doing the following:

  • brush your teeth properly, with an all-natural toothpaste (diy too!)
  • floss properly
  • use healthy mouth rinses. no alcohols, no dyes, no SLS, etc.
  • use natural teeth whiteners
  • use a tongue scraper
  • eat real food (we’re lookin at you, veggies!)
  • swish the “oil pulling replacement” mouth rinse! (post coming soon!)

do i personally recommend oil pulling?

please make your own educated decisions with the help of your health care professional. lots of people have had great results by oil pulling, ranging from whitened teeth to lessened tooth sensitivity.

but i can tell you, you won’t find me swishing oil anytime soon :) i’d rather brush properly, floss properly, use mouth rinses as needed, and eat real food. i’ll skip the gagging… because that’s what happens to me personally. i’m aware LOTS of people enjoy oil pulling. GO FOR IT! <3

to reiterate my point: there’s absolutely no harm in doing it, if you so choose. you might experience tooth sensitivity, but that’s about the extent of the negative things you’d experience. it’s just another aspect of oral care. if you choose to oil pull, don’t expect some magical bodily cure. but you CAN expect improved oral health if done properly AND in conjunction with other proper oral care. (yes, that means whiter teeth (with coconut oil), less tooth sensitivity (by having a healthier mouth in general), lessen bad breath (coconut oil is antibac), and less cavities (CO is antibac).  just also be aware that you can also achieve those by using any other healthy mouth wash :) )

in the meantime, let’s agree to stop saying oil pulling detoxes you and cures allergies and lessens your PMS symptoms. okay? okay.

we CAN say it promotes a healthier oral environment when used in conjunction with proper brushing/flossing. if you’re seeing decreased tooth sensitivity, whiter teeth, etc., keep doing it! it’s the fact that your mouth is healthier that’s making everything better. no reason to stop!

what do you guys think??

do we have any success stories? any failed attempts?

**FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH DENTAL FILLINGS – (me, too!) it has been reported that oil pulling does loosen up fillings. please talk to your dentist first if this applies to you!

hippie stamp Sig

29 comments

  1. I have TMJD and oil pulling – or the action of oil pulling – actually helps, in my case. It gets my muscles moving and loosened up. Trust me, I have horrible TMJD… two surgeries, zero cartilage, three types on injections over 20 years, massages, PT, splints, braces, chiro… Ugh! It’s awful, as you sadly know. I do think the first few times I oil swished (hee-hee) I was a little sore, but nothing to cause pain. The more I did it, the better it got. I just wanted to out this our there in case some people wanted to try if to actually help with their TMJD. Nice post, btw. :) I love research.

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  2. I love the c.o. based diy toothpaste! It has greatly reduced my tooth sensitivity made worse by gum trimming surgery last summer. Coconut oil pulling itself gave me a headache, but plain coconut is on my headache list of food sensitivities, so I wasn’t surprised about that. So glad I can tolerate the toothpaste b/c my teeth and gums sure like it.

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  3. I tried it at least 5 days a week for a month. My husband noticed my teeth looked whiter. I think my gums just looked really healthy and I didn’t have bad breath or a yucky taste in my mouth.

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    1. totally to be expected! it’s a part of a healthy oral routine that improves your mouth :) it’s the whole “it cures PMS and arthritis” junk that needed debunking lol

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  4. I actually really like oil pulling too! I use coconut oil. I had one spot on my guns that would bleed every time I brushed my teeth, and it was even worse when I flossed. I started oil pulling, and within a week my gums didn’t bleed at all, my teeth were smooth and polished and food didn’t stick to them like it normally does, my morning breath was significantly diminished. I clench my jaw at night, which causes it to misalign. after about a week of swishing, it popped back into place. Slightly painful, but with the split second of pain. I would totally recommend oil pulling for oral health! As far as the other claims go, it makes sense that improving our oral health would improve overall health because of the nature of our mouths. Thanks for posting this, Alex!

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  5. Thanks for this. I have also been wary of the miracle cures proponents of oil pulling claim it has. I have, however, loved how much better my oral health has been since I started. (And I considered myself to have very good oral hygiene before.) I prefer oil pulling for now since I’m wary of many of the rinse recipes I’ve seen. Many of the ingredients just seem too harsh, and like your gut,I kind of think it shouldn’t be about killing everything, but instead, maintaining a healthy balance. I’m excited to see your rinse recipe. :)

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  6. I agree with the majority if commerns here, I’ve been oil pulling 3-4 times owe week for a month or so and have noticed all the benefits that Alex agrees on, but none of the others I can say are happening haha. Good to see the research and I’ll probably switch to this mouth rinse that Alex is teasing us with! :) can’t wait for that post! P.S. Activated charcoal works awesome as a teeth whitener too!

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  7. I used to have terrible tooth sensitivity until I started oil pulling; and like magic the tooth sensitivity stopped. I have a very good oral hygiene and I don’t use any mouth wash since I started using coconut oil to oil pull. Researches might not have been done but im one of the people that had tooth problems, visited my dentists for treatments, used sensodyne, but none worked till I started oil pulling.

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  8. Hi Alex A query regarding activated charcoal – is consumption of any burnt item (ie food) carcinogenic? Thx Jo

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    1. hey jo! AC is not the same as charcoal you’d burn to cook with. fire charcoals ARE carcinogenic, and AC is NOT. AC actually helps pull toxins, heavy metals, and unwanted pharmaceuticals from your system. there are research articles out there showing the effectiveness of AC in treating acutely poisoned patients. pretty neat stuff! hope this helps :)

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  9. I was just discussing oil pulling with someone the other night and they mentioned in research (somewhere they read) that it can actually loosen fillings, etc! That’s a no bueno for us who have had dental work. :) Thanks for your post! Very insightful. Love your blog!

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      1. Everyone has dental work of some kind. I’ve heard of loosening fillings and crowns but don’t know if it’s true, or needs debunking. Maybe the loosened fillings were already falling apart. Wish there was a poll amongst oil pullers. Love my c.o. toothpaste.

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  10. Great timing! My sis just recommended swishing coconut oil & I was thinking “Oh, really? 20 minutes? That sounds……. like I’ll probably never bother.” It was nice to read a little more about it & now I feel satisfied that there is CO in my homemade toothpaste! Thanks!

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  11. I personally love oil pulling. I thought I would deal with the gagging, but never have and it really does help clear my sinuses and make it easier to breathe. It’s made my teeth whiter than they’ve ever been and I simply don’t need to brush my teeth more than once a day (usually right after I pull) because they don’t get as dirty and have no plaque. When I’ve run out of oil or had to take a break I really can’t wait to get back to it. Do I think some of these claims are a little over the top? Sure! But I would still suggest this to anyone.

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  12. Hi Alexraye,

    How do you feel about swishing with diluted hydrogen peroxide? I have heard differing things about it, and I would love to have your opinion. I tried oil pulling but 20 minutes seems like forever. My patience isn’t that great. lol!

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    1. hey mary! when HP is used as a whitening agent, it’s rough on your gums and the lining of your mouth, disrupting the normal flora of bacteria in your mouth. also, HP is an oxidant. think of it this way: you use antioxidants to reduce cellular damage, so why use an oxidant in your mouth? i’d advise against it. :)

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    1. hey kathleen! i love that you included these!

      the 1st and 2nd articles you linked further proves my point in that using a mouth wash is JUST AS effective. direct quote – “Oil pulling therapy has been equally effective like chlorhexidine [mouthwash] on halitosis and organisms.”
      the 3rd article you linked shows the results when oil pulling is COMBINED with using a salt water mouth rinse, which we know further supports a healthy oral environment.

      again, those articles further show that oil pulling is NOT a magical 20 minute a day cure, and that a healthy mouth wash is Just as effective :)

      Thank You!

      (edited)

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  13. Thank you. I know your background which is why I followed your blog. I guess I also made an assumption by thinking that if you read the articles you would have known that I was just giving you extra resources to support your findings. Anyway water under the bridge:)

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  14. I swish sesame oil a few times a week for a few minutes. I also floss and brush regularly. I haven’t experienced anything that oil pulling claims to do but I keep doing it because I like the way my teeth feel afterwards. They just feel cleaner than with normal brushing and flossing (which I still do as well as oil pulling).

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  15. Thanks, I appreciate your approach! I do oil pulling with CO several times a week, and agree that it helps oral health. The one thing that’s different in my experience is the supposed side effect of sensitive teeth. I would say it’s the other way around – if one of my teeth gets sensitive, it’s usually when I’ve been remiss in oil pulling, and a day or two of oil pulling gets rid of the sensitivity.

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  16. Hi,
    I just started using home made tooth paste. I added calcium citrate with magnesium and vit d.
    Vit d 3. 200.iu
    Calcium from calcium citrate 400
    Magnesium from magNesium Citrate 400mg.
    Is this alright for my teeth. It effervescent on the brush when I add water.
    Is this normal?

    Serving size 1.25 tsp.
    Thank you
    Victoria

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  17. I personally really like doing the activated charcoal pulling instead of oil, even though you can combine the two! It’s easier to swish around in your mouth if your face muscles are weaker or more sensitive and great for your oral health. And yes you can swallow some of it too if you need to, or by accident. Haha! I like to do this and then wait a few minutes after spitting out the rinse with the leftover still on teeth, and then brush with toothpaste to get the benefit of the charcoal and brushing teeth without it being too abrasive (which I have heard some people worry about if you use it just to brush your teeth).
    Love it!

    Like

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