Oil pulling Traditional medicine for oral health maintenance


The mouth is considered the mirror of the general health of the human body. A common belief suggests that oral health is a gateway to general health. This indicates that oral health significantly impacts an individual’s public health and well-being. Recent studies prove [1] the unequivocal evidence of a strong relationship between systemic and oral diseases.

Periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis and dental caries are the most common forms of oral diseases [2]. Periodontal diseases are a risk factor for the etiology of coronary heart disease [3]. Similarly, gingival tissue points toward a significant deficiency of Vitamin C and other nutritional deficiencies.

The fields of medicine and dentistry have brought around significant technological advancements in recent years. Various alternative medicinal treatments, such as Ayurveda, have gained popularity due to their natural origin, negligible side effects, cost-effectiveness, and improved patient compliance. [4]

As the traditional & holistic form of medicinal system, Ayurveda originated in the Indian subcontinent region. The advent and practice of Ayurveda date back to 3000-5000 years. One potential therapy is oil pulling therapy which prevents oral diseases and is used as an aide to conventional oral hygiene practices.

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling or oil swishing involves vigorously swishing oil in the oral cavity for local and systemic benefits. This is similar to the modern-day use of mouthwashes and oral rinses. For centuries it has been utilized for the treatment & prevention of various oral and systemic diseases [5]. Using organic edible oils derived from organic seeds like sunflower, sesame, and coconut, this process is believed to cure 30 different types of systemic diseases. This includes migraine, headaches, and chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes mellitus. The effects of oil pulling on oral health, as conventional oral hygiene is exemplary. Scientific evidence suggests that oil pulling therapy reduces the total oral bacterial count and other oral health diseases [6].

The Process

Oil pulling is performed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Sip a tablespoon of sesame/mustard/coconut oil. Swish it around your mouth and teeth for approximately 15-20 min and spit it out. Swishing oil in the oral cavity changes the viscosity of the oil. It turns into a milky white with a thin consistency [7,8]. Avoid swallowing the oil as it is loaded with toxins and bacteria, harmful to human health. Followed by rinsing, brushing and flossing. The practise should preferably be performed three times daily for acute diseases.

Caution: You need to observe caution by NOT spitting/expelling it into the sink at home. The reason is that the oil solidifies and blocks the U-bend in the sink (if done regularly, which is recommended). We want to save your plumbing costs and have any bitter experiences! The hack is to use a big tissue and dispose it straight into the bin or flush it down the toilet where the pipe is wide.

Mechanism of Action

The swishing creates Osmotic pressure. Oil has the property to attach with itself dirt and microorganisms, which, when spit, flushes out toxins. Another theory speculates a mechanism involving alkali hydrolysis of fat, resulting in the saponification or “soap making” process. The oils contain fat; the alkali hydrolysis process emulsifies the fat into bicarbonate ions, generally found in saliva. It cleanses your tracts and gums from within. Another theory suggests that the viscous nature of oil inhibits plaque accumulation & adhesion of bacteria [9]. This helps in the destruction of microorganisms and potentiates Vitamin E’s action in the oral cavity [10].

Effects of Oil Pulling on Oral Health


The chemical and mechanical removal of oral biofilm is vital to maintain the oral cavity’s ecological equilibrium and prevent the initiation of the carious process. Some 700 species of bacteria are found in the oral microbiome, inhabiting the oral biofilm [11].

Bacitracin producing Streptococcus mutants and lactic acid-producing Lactobacilli are the most common pathogens that cause dental caries [12]. The demineralization process kicks in once the pH of plaque decreases below the “critical value”. The demineralized enamel is known as dental caries.

Oil pulling has clear antibacterial activity against C. Albicans and S. mutans. A 40-day oil pulling regimen can show a proven reduction of 20% in the total microbial count in the oral cavity [13].

Plaque-induced gingivitis is another common type of gingival disease caused due to interaction of microorganisms in plaque biofilm [14]. A significant decrease was found in modified gingival index scores and plaque scores after oil pulling therapy compared to the chlorhexidine group.

Halitosis or bad breath is another common problem that may cause social embarrassment. Oil pulling with organic sesame oil was effective against halitosis & associated pathogens, as chlorhexidine rinses are considered a gold standard [15, 16]. Moreover, oil pulling is one of the most cost-effective than chlorhexidine, with zero side effects like allergic reactions and mucosal staining after prolonged use [17,18].

Oral thrush is a non-contagious fungal infection seen in individuals taking medications. This alters the oral microflora over time. Studies suggest that oil pulling improves symptoms of oral thrush. It does so by trapping or pulling the toxins & pathogens during oil swishing—these aids in the mechanical removal of pathogens from the oral cavity. Also, the antifungal properties of oils kill the yeast in the oral cavity and eliminate the candida pathogens [19].

Why Oil Pulling Therapy?

Oil pulling therapy is the simplest and most cost-effective method to maintain and improve good oral health. There are no strict precautions required to follow the regimen. Compared to other available detox methods, oil pulling is effortless and harmless. Moreover, the process does not need specialized oil, and any household organic oil such as sunflower can work. Chlorhexidine mouthwashes have slightly lower compliance due to the unpleasant taste and unwanted effects like staining. Meanwhile, oil pulling is not associated with any such side effects [20].

Ending Note:

Ayurvedic procedures promote better health and lifestyle by incorporating nature and natural things into everyday routine. Being the oldest healthcare system that evolved in the Indian Subcontinent, Ayurveda has had a dynamic & unbroken knowledge tradition. Many Ayurvedic texts prescribe a range of themes on food ranging from diversity of natural sources, regional & seasonal properties and their specific function in pathological and physiological states. We need to understand and imbibe it to best suit our bodies and bring optimum health! Learn more here about Yogic Lifestyle for the best health!


References and Sources:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11106011/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC88948/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9722698/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14728584/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27386001/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21525674/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19336860/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19336860/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21525674/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22394465/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17343688/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17343688/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28053895/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15560817/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12716335/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21911944/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25584309/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24057219/
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