Chances are, you’ve heard the term “oil pulling” at least once, even if you aren’t completely familiar with the practice. Also called “oil swishing,” this ancient technique is making its rounds in trendy health circles, and as a dentist, I am a strong advocate for oil pulling as an easy and affordable way to improve dental and oral health while rebalancing the oral microbiome.
But the question is: What is oil pulling, exactly? And does it actually work?
History of oil pulling.
In India, the practice of ayurvedic medicine has been the mainstay of health for the last several millennia. This system is based on the theory of three doshas (energies) and how foods, herbs, and other natural remedies balance those doshas. According to ayurvedic tradition, equilibrium among the doshas results in better health, less stress, and more fulfilling relationships.
But regardless of an individual’s dosha or unique constitution, taking care of the teeth and mouth according to ayurvedic principles will always include a prescription to practice oil pulling. Also referred to in texts as Kavala Graha or Gandusha, oil pulling is the habit of swishing an oil throughout the mouth for several minutes, sometimes multiple times a day, to support health. According to one review of the history and uses of oil pulling, “[Oil pulling] is claimed to cure about 30 systemic diseases ranging from headache, migraine to diabetes and asthma. Oil pulling has been used extensively as a traditional Indian folk remedy for many years to prevent decay, oral malodor, bleeding gums, dryness of throat, cracked lips and for strengthening teeth, gums and the jaw.”