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Oil Pulling: Does it Really Work?

Oil Pulling: Does it Really Work?

It’s no secret that our culture’s overuse of antibiotics has created lots of antibiotic resistant bacteria. This has caused scientists to launch studies on the effectiveness of using different oils as antimicrobial, bacteria-killing agents. Today we are going to take a look at what oil pulling is, its effect on bacteria, and if it’s even worth the trouble.

What is Oil Pulling?

We first see oil pulling used as an Indian treatment for strengthening gums/teeth, getting rid of bad breath, and whitening teeth, with these being just a few of the perceived benefits. The technique is simple; swish with an edible oil (coconut, sesame, sunflower, vegetable) for ten to fifteen minutes. The oil will turn frothy white. After ten to fifteen minutes, spit the oil out and brush your teeth. Done.


How Does Oil Pulling Affect Bacteria?

Now, let’s talk about plaque. Plaque is basically a buildup of bad bacteria that forms on our teeth. It then can cause tooth decay, cavities, swollen gums, pain, and lots of other lovely things. So basically, we need to get rid of or reduce all of that. How do we know if oil pulling gets rid of the bad stuff? Let’s take a look at a couple of studies.

It is believed that the sesame seed is native to Africa. Sesame oil is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are easy for our saliva to break down. Without running the risk of getting too complicated, since it is easy for our bodies to break down the fatty acids found in sesame oil, less free radicals are produced in our mouth. This is GOOD since free radicals cause all sorts of damage to the body, e.g., plaque buildup and unwanted bacteria growth. Sesame oil also contains Chlorosesamone which has been shown to have antifungal properties.

One Study on the Benefits of Oil Pulling. A study done by T. Anand showed that after 40 days of oil pulling, bacteria reduction in the mouth ranged from 10-33.4%. Fifty percent of participants had significant reduction in the amount of decay/plaque found in their mouths.

A Second Study on the Benefits of Oil Pulling. A second, randomized, controlled, triple-blind study was performed to discover the effects of oil pulling with sesame oil. They took twenty guys with plaque-induced gingivitis and divided them into two groups, a mouthwash group (active ingredient chlorhexidine, the active ingredient found in most mouthwashes) and an oil pulling group (sesame oil.)

The oil pulling group took 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and swished it between their teeth for ten to fifteen minutes. They were instructed to brush their teeth afterwards.

The mouthwash group swished a .12% chlorhexidine solution for one minute per day before brushing their teeth.

This went on for ten days

Results? The oil pulling therapy was equally effective against plaque-induced gingivitis as the mouthwash.

Both groups showed decreases in plaque index score, gingival index score, and total microorganisms present

Now, how does it work?

Oil pulling does NOT “pull toxins out of your blood.” The mucosa lining in the mouth doesn’t let the toxins escape through it, nullifying that theory.

Sesame oil is a fat. The fatty oil creates an environment that makes it difficult for bacteria to stick to your teeth. Additionally, oil pulling actually creates a kind of soap in your mouth. As the fat is broken down in a process known as saponification, a cleansing formula is created in your mouth that is full of antioxidants. The part of the oil that does not become saponified protects your mouth from infection and inflammation with the leftover antioxidants from the sesame oil.

Is Oil Pulling Worth the Trouble?

So maybe there is something to the traditional use of oil pulling which says it prevents bleeding gums, decay, bad breath, weak teeth, dry lips and dry mouth. It sure seems like it is worth a shot, especially when you consider that chlorhexidine, the active ingredient in most mouthwashes, has some undesirable side effects such as staining your teeth with prolonged use and changing taste perception. Anything with warnings such as “may cause chemical burns in small children” and side effects including mouth ulcers, salivary gland swelling, dry mouth, and decreased taste sensation, shouldn’t be used on any of your family members.

Give oil pulling a try. Take little steps to take care of yourself, the natural way.



Anand, T. D., C. Pothiraj, R. M. Gopinath, and B. Kayalvizhi. "Effect of Oil-pulling on Dental Caries Causing Bacteria." African Journal of Microbiology Research 2 (March 2008): 063-66. Academic Journals. PG Department of Microbiology,. Web. 31 Dec. 2015. <http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380102380_Anand%20et%20al.pdf>.

Chlorhexidine Gluconate. http://www.drugs.com/mtm/chlorhexidine-gluconate-...

Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian J Dent Res 2009;20:47-51

Asokan S. Oil pulling therapy. Indian J Dent Res 2008;19:169