Oil pulling may seem like a new phenomena, but it was developed over 100 years ago as a natural remedy for health issues, including headaches and liver problems. And while some of the rumored benefits of oil pulling -- like its ability to fight cancer -- aren’t yet supported by research, it does offer several health benefits for your oral and overall health. Best of all, it’s inexpensive, not very time consuming and easy to do.
Choosing Your Oils
Most people oil pull with coconut, sesame or sunflower oil. All three oils will “pull” bacteria from your gums and teeth, but coconut oil offers additional benefits because it's high in lauric acid, a naturally antimicrobial fatty acid, says Cheryl Billingsley, DDS, owner of Richmond Family Dentistry. Coconut oil also has a milder taste than sesame oil, which might make it more palatable, and most people aren't sensitive to coconut oil, adds Billingsley. Always choose organic oils for oil pulling to avoid exposure to toxins.
Consider mixing a drop of essential oil into your main carrier oil to boost health benefits. Tea tree oil offers natural antimicrobial properties, while peppermint can give the oil a more pleasant taste and freshen your breath. Just don’t go overboard and add more than a drop, since these oils can be irritating. Steer clear of harsher essential oils, like oregano oil, says Billingsley, and stop using essential oils if you notice any irritation.
Basic Oil Pulling Technique
Basic oil pulling takes just over 20 minutes total, and you should do it in the morning on an empty stomach, says Edita Outericka, DMD, director of Dynamic Dental. Here’s how to do it:
- Measure out 1 tablespoon of your preferred oil for pulling. You can use coconut in its solid state -- it will liquify in your mouth.
- Gently swish the oil around your mouth for 20 minutes using your tongue -- if your jaw or cheeks feel sore, you're swishing too hard. This is the most difficult part, and swishing as you go through your morning routine can help pass the time, says Outericka.
- Spit the oil into a paper towel or zip-lock bag and throw it in the garbage.
- Rinse your mouth with warm water, or brush your teeth to remove excess oil.
Aim to oil pull daily or at least a few times per week.
Troubleshooting and Starting Out
When you’re starting out, you might find it difficult to jump right into a complete oil-pulling routine. If you feel nauseated, try reducing the amount of oil to 1 teaspoon until you get used to the feel of the oil in your mouth, recommends Outericka. You can gradually move up to 1 tablespoon.
You can also try splitting your oil pulls into a few sessions to make it more manageable. Two 8- to 10-minute oil pulling sessions offer the same benefits as one 15- to 20-minute session, says Bilingsley.
Considerations and Tips
The experts agree that oil pulling is safe and won’t cause side effects -- as long as you aren’t allergic to the oil you choose. But make sure you dispose of used oil in the garbage, and don't spit it down the drain. Coconut oil solidifies at room temperature, so it can clog your drains or disrupt your sewage system.
Another key takeaway: Don’t count on oil pulling alone to get your mouth squeaky clean. As Outericka notes, “oil pulling is a great addition to oral health practices, [but] it should not replace brushing and flossing.”