Oil pulling, which is also known as oil swishing, is the latest trendy health fad, but is it effective or merely offers “swish” fulfillment to practitioners? The ancient technique is being touted as a teeth whitener and a cure for everything from acne to asthma.
Oil pulling goes back 2,500 years. It is based on practices and concepts from a traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda, that claims that oil nourishes body tissue. In Ayurveda, the body’s tissues, from head to toe, are oiled every day. This is believed to have an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effect.
The oil pulling practice is drawing a lot of attention these days from health gurus, celebrities who have reportedly tried it like Shailene Woodley and Gwyneth Paltrow, and others now embracing the swishing habit.
So, what does oil swishing or pulling entail and is a daily swish really offer fulfillment? The Ayurvedic technique involves swishing a natural oil like coconut or sesame in your mouth, like a mouthwash, and then spitting it out. There is no exact amount of oil prescribed, but most use between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Those who recommend the technique usually suggest swishing the oil for 10-15 minutes, but others suggest ranges from five up to 20 minutes.
People have reported all kinds of positive results from doing oil pulling, according to chiropractor Marc Halpern, who is president of the California College of Ayurveda, located in Nevada City, Calif., although he admits oil pulling may not produce all of the benefits some users proclaim.
In fact, most claims that practitioners make have not been and are not being studied. Consequently, there are not solid medical studies offering evidence to back up or refute the benefits or, conversely, indicate any risks. Several professional groups, including the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, are not conducting research on oil pulling,
Actress Woodley, who is into natural healing, told a recent beauty blog that swishing coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up is “amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter,” she claimed, noting that her preference is sesame oil.
Dr. Sally J. Cram, a periodontist and an ADA consumer adviser, reports that she has not seen any studies on oil pulling during 28 years in dentistry. Cram does acknowledge that the fragrance of certain oils may help freshen breath, but that the oils are not anti-bacterial.
Some experts say almost anything you do for your mouth is better than neglecting it. Noting that paying attention to oral hygiene is a good thing, Dr. Joseph Banker, a cosmetic dentist in Westfield, N.J. pointed out that there are other things people could be doing for their teeth and mouth. He noted that many of the “old remedies” were developed before toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and other dental hygiene elements.
As for whether oil swishing or oil pulling offer fulfillment for those wanting to whiten their teeth, Banker is skeptical. He does not believe that oil has an intrinsic effect other than the removal of plaque. Baker does acknowledge that anything swished around in the mouth for 20 minutes can have an effect, even water. So, if done daily, it is possible that some tooth stain can be removed with oil pulling, Banker noted. Also, if the swishing does improve gum health, the gums will appear to be pinker, which can make the teeth look whiter, he pointed out.
By Dyanne Weiss