Does oil pulling work?

Dick Gregory once said coconut milk is the only thing on this planet that comes identically to mother's milk. And while the general sentiment in regards to coconut oil might be similar, swishing it in one's mouth for twenty minutes might not garner a similar reaction from everyone.


The first time I heard of oil pulling was when I read an article on Gwyneth Paltrow. When I learned that the Hollywood star starts her day by placing raw organic coconut oil in her mouth and swishing it around, I had to do a double-take. "Why would anyone do that?" Is what I asked myself. In an era where the world cringes at anything "oily," why are people embracing this new "oil pulling"?


It turns out this oral ritual wasn't a new concept, after all. 


Oil pulling, also referred to as "Kavala" or "Gundusha," is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique originating from India that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for about 20 minutes. The oil used may be from coconut, sunflower, or sesame seed.


A controversial practice that has regained traction with Ayurveda's renaissance, the perceived therapeutic use of oil pulling is said to offer many benefits to its users. People believe that it helps reduce plaque formation in the mouth, ultimately preventing bad breath, gum inflammation, gingivitis, and cavities. 


Numerous researches also back these bold claims. 


For example, the Indian Journal of Dental Research published a research in 2009, which found that swishing with sesame oil reduced plaque, modified gingival scores, and lowered microorganisms in the plaque adolescents with plaque-induced gingivitis. 


Another study published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research found that oil pulling with sesame oil helped reduce oral malodor and the microbes, causing it just as much as using a chlorhexidine treatment. 


In his book Oil Pulling Therapy, Dr. Bruce Fife also endorses the practice, claiming that oil pulling exerts a powerful cleaning and healing effect of the mouth and the rest of the body. 

Supported by health enthusiasts and numerous testimonials, oil pulling is not just another "pseudo-science fad." Or so they say. While many have embraced this practice with open arms, many scientific communities have a healthy dose of skepticism regarding oil pulling.


Dental experts argue that oil pulling cannot be a proper substitute for standard oral health practices. The American Dentistry Association calls oil pulling an unconventional dentistry practice, claiming oil pulling therapy does not have sufficient peer-reviewed scientific studies to support its use for oral conditions. In fact, ADA has not shied away from questioning the validity of studies that support the use of oil pulling.


My final thoughts? While I agree that I wouldn't be switching my daily teeth brushing with oil pulling any time soon, it is something to be considered. I believe adding oil pulling to daily dental practice might complement one's dental hygiene, that is, if you have a minute or twenty to spare every morning.