One of the things I love about living here in Ashland is the wellness focus that so many people have. There is a consistent emphasis by many people here to look to nature or “ancient medicine” to help achieve “balance” or “wellness.” These approaches are often tradition-based, intuitive, and/or based on a philosophy or belief. One that I’ve seen come up quite a bit of recent is oil pulling.
As background, oil pulling is an ancient, traditional folk remedy that has been practiced for centuries in India and southern Asia as a holistic Ayurvedic technique. The practice of oil pulling involves placing a tablespoon of an edible oil (e.g., sesame, olive, sunflower, coconut) inside the mouth, and swishing or “pulling” the oil through the teeth and oral cavity for anywhere from 1-5 minutes to up to 20 minutes or longer.
There are many claims in support of oil pulling such as: drawing toxins out of the body, preventing decay, whitening teeth, and improving systemic wellness. Unfortunately, there is very little peer-reviewed research to support these claims. The American Dental Association said this of oil pulling, “Overall, as is true for many folk remedies, oil pulling therapy has insufficient peer-reviewed scientific studies to support its use for oral conditions.” After doing extensive research on my own, I have found that the studies that were done on oil pulling either violated numerous principles of research, demonstrated a small sample size, or the results were simply not supportive of the therapy.
Interestingly, many of the dental products that are widely researched and accepted include many natural oils. Essential oils used in small amounts are found effective with only a 30-second rinse. When combined with effective brushing and flossing, oils such as thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and menthol are all commonly used in oral health care prevention.
More research needs to be done in order for me to recommend the use of oil pulling for oral care. If you choose to oil pull, I would strongly encourage brushing and flossing as usual and be careful not to aspirate the oil carried within the mouth as that can cause respiratory complications.
Have a wonderful spring, and remember Smile and the World Smiles with You.