Oil pulling sounds like what the ancient Greeks did to make olive oil or an event in the first Olympics, not something for oral or overall wellness health. Like many trends that are “oldies but goodies,” oil pulling is slithering its way through the veins of Hollywood and homeopathists alike. It’s natural and claims to promote a ton of health benefits, but scientists are still on the fence on whether oil pulling actually does anything. A few studies claim that oil pulling does indeed whiten teeth and improve oral health but many other studies claim that your typical mouthwash does a better job.

Oil pulling is a common practice in India to promote a body detox or help with oral health. But does it have the same benefits of traditional care? Do you still have to brush your teeth when you pull oil? Will your skin get that great glow you’ve been hoping for? Will that guy finally ask you out because hey, you pull oil now? What is oil pulling exactly and why are so many people bombarding Google with it?

Sunflower Oil for Oil Pulling

How Did Oil Pulling Start and What Does it Do?

Let’s start with the premise that oil pulling started in India 5,000 years ago with Ayurvedic natural-healing practices. It was used to relieve migraines, diabetes, asthma, acne, and helped to whiten teeth. Today, users claim it relieves similar problems and helps with arthritis, hormone imbalances, liver problems, skin issues, tooth sensitivity, and helping to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. While teeth whitening and fewer bacteria are desirable, some people don’t see any of these benefits and in a small study, regular mouthwash killed more bacteria and helped whiten teeth better than oil pulling.

Sesame Oil for Oil Pulling

Sesame Oil is Supposed to Have the Best Whitening Benefits

How Does it Work?

Everyone’s body works differently. What works perfectly for one person may not work for another. For those who swear by oil pulling, it probably does work well for decreasing the tartar in their mouth and improving teeth whiteness. However, many people haven’t seen any helpful benefits and some can barely get through the twenty minutes of swishing.

Oil pulling draws on the concept that like dissolves like. The oil can cut through plaque and decrease toxins without hurting your teeth or gums because oil and tartar have a similar make-up. It sort-of like what happens when you use skincare products. The decrease in oil on your skin is due to the product’s ability to dissolve the oil with a like substance. Apparently, the oil also coats the teeth to protect them from damage from bacteria and prevent the build-up of plaque.

Coconut Oil for Oil Pulling

Coconut Oil

How Do I Pull Oil?

It seems like the “oil pulling” name came from the fact that the oil pulls the plaque off of your teeth or pulls out the toxins from your blood that case zits and pain. So how do you do it if you really want to try swishing a ton of oil around in your mouth?

  • Purchase coconut, sunflower, sesame, or olive oil (as long as the oil is food quality, it’s useable) (the real hardcore advocates believe sesame is the best oil to use for whitening)
  • Put 1-2 TS (Teaspoon) of oil in your mouth (yes, stuff the waxy, slimy, pungent oil in your mouth)
  • Swish the oil around in your mouth for about twenty minutes until it’s milky looking (a.k.a. the spit and the oil are now one)
  • Spit the oil out into the trash and whatever you do, don’t swallow! (you don’t want the oil going into your septic system and if you swallow the oil/saliva mixture, you’re just putting the toxins right back into your body)
  • Rinse your mouth out with warm water
  • Brush your teeth! You want to kill the remaining bacteria and oil as well as freshen your breath
Oil Pulling Teeth Results

Oil Pulling Results (teeth look the same to me)

Do I Still Have to Brush My Teeth?

Yes! Don’t be a dirty gremlin and think you’re done with oral hygiene just because you pulled oil! Oil pulling has a lot of testimonials, including celebrities, but science still says results are inconclusive. Always brush your teeth twice per day and use mouthwash even if you’re pulling oil. Oil pulling helps with whitening and oral benefits in addition to regular brushing. It’s a supplement, not a trade-off.

Olive Oil for Oil Pulling

Olive Oil

So is it Worth it?

Many people swear it’s the magic organic mouthwash and others think it’s hogwash. I’d err more on the side of hogwash since most studies claim it doesn’t actually help and regular mouthwash is better. There are a few studies that claim up to a 20% oral health improvement but this is only a handful. This fad, rampant in Hollywood so you’ll see tons of actors promoting its health benefits, needs some more ground to stand on. There is too much inconclusive evidence rolling around for everyone to start jumping on the bandwagon.

If you’re feeling adventurous, I’d say go for it and let us know what you think. If you have a sensitive stomach though, the extra oil being absorbed into your system through your mouth may cause you some uncomfortable feelings. For me, a lot of excess oil really irritates my stomach and makes me feel nauseated so oil pulling is out of the picture for me. If you have an extreme gag reflex or don’t like waxy/oily/unfamiliar textures in your mouth, you may want to stay away from oil pulling as well.

As with any trend, it may work for most but not all. This may be a case where a small portion of oil pullers actually see results and other portion wants to believe it sees results. There aren’t any measurable standings to look at such as it improves teeth whiteness up to five shades or this ninety-year-old grandma started pulling oil and no longer has arthritis. A couple of testimonials claimed that it really did deliver on all the health benefits, but I still believe this is a case of everyone’s body reacts differently.

Here’s another more common example: Neosporin. Millions of people use Neosporin and love that it helps heal cuts and wounds quickly and helps prevent scarring. They come in many varieties, including one that helps relieve pain, and it does what it says. Yet, thousands of people are extremely allergic to Neosporin. If it touches their skin, emergency hospital visit. This can also be applied to penicillin. Although oil pulling may work well for hundreds, I don’t believe it works well for millions.

Feelin’ spicy? Try oil pulling. But be warned, eating french fries or other oily foods will not have the same health benefits at oil pulling. That’s more along the lines of gastric bypass pulling.

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I am in deep-fried love with food and travel. With Italian roots, I have a weakness for bread, marinara, and mozzarella. I’ll try anything once and am constantly searching for intriguing places to visit. When I'm not savoring the last bite or organizing my next trip, I'm indulging my inner bookworm and writing about my adventures. If you turn on college football and give me a local craft beer, you’ll see the happiest Hokie on the West coast.

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