Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Oil Pulling: Valuable ancient remedy or colossal hoax?

Many of you have asked about the new celebrity trend, oil pulling, and I took a look at the research. What scientific evidence did I find on this practice? Surprisingly little.

For those who haven't heard, oil pulling is an Indian folk remedy advocating the daily swishing of edible oil for twenty minutes. The supposed benefits are improved oral and systemic health.
There is very little data evaluating the practice of oil pulling. This is odd, since it's considered an ancient practice. Fluoride has been around since the 1940's and we have thousands of experiments proving its effectiveness and safety. Only eleven studies are available that actually test the oil pulling remedy in the mouths of humans (sources listed at end).  

Can oil pulling make my teeth whiter? No scientific data available on this one. Only you can decided if the oil has lightened your teeth. (Check out my post on teeth-whitening solutions.)

Does oil pulling cause receded gums to grow back? No, that is a total lie.

What I recommend based on the available literature

  • Oil pulling should ABSOLUTELY NOT replace brushing and flossing in your oral hygiene regimen. To do so would be detrimental to your oral health. Anyone recommending otherwise is flat wrong.
  • If you like the taste of the oil, use it as a mouthwash for 20 seconds or less. The literature suggests that it can reduce cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth after eating, so a brief swish here or there would be fine. Note that you can also achieve the same effect with plain water, especially fluoridated tap water. 
  • DO NOT leave the oil in your mouth for extended periods of time for risk of affecting your normal flora. No mouthwash (prescribed, over the counter, or all natural) should be used for 20 minutes.

I leave you with this quote: 

"Based on the available research, the effectiveness of oil pulling is inconclusive...The qualities of oil
pulling appeal to certain individuals seeking a natural
alternative, on the other hand, minimal scientific
evidence exists to support oil pulling therapy as an
effective oral care treatment. "
from Bekeleski  et al., 2012

Bekeleski G, McCombs G, Lee Melvin W. Oil Pulling: An Ancient Practice for a Modern Time. Journal Of International Oral Health [serial online]. September 2012;4(3):1-10.  

Asokan S, Emmadi P, Chamundeswari R. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: A randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian Journal Of Dental Research [serial online]. January 2009;20(1):47-51. 

Hebbar A, Keluskar V, Shetti A. Oil pulling - Unraveling the path to mystic cure. Journal Of International Oral Health [serial online]. December 2010;2(4):11-14.

Laughter L. Web Weaving. Just what is oil pulling therapy?. Rdh [serial online]. April 2011;31(4):64. Accessed March 15, 2014.

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 & Preventive Dentistry [serial online]. March 2008;26(1):12-17. 

Saravanan D, Ramkumar S, Vineetha K. Effect of Oil Pulling with Sesame Oil on Plaque-induced Gingivitis: A Microbiological Study. Journal Of Orofacial Research [serial online]. July 2013;3(3):175-180. 


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