By Brian James Rose
Good oral health is essential and a key indicator of overall health, quality of life, and individual wellbeing. Poor oral hygiene can lead to various dental disorders and also linked to systemic disorders, including heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Oil pulling is one of the alternative medical practices used for improving oral hygiene and overall body health. It works to improve oral health and has benefits in conditions like diabetes mellitus, migraines, headaches, acne, and asthma. Oil pulling was first practiced in India as a traditional form of medicine termed Ayurveda. Due to its benefits, it became popular in many countries around the world.
What is Oil Pulling?
Oil pulling is an old method used to remove toxins and harmful bacteria from the mouth by swishing plant-based oils in the mouth. Experts believe that holding oil in the mouth for a prolonged time (around 15 to 20 minutes) and then spitting it out will remove all the impurities. The concept behind this practice is that all the oil-soluble impurities will be drawn out of the mouth by swishing. Oil pulling originated around 3000 to 5000 years back in India as a part of natural healing practices. At that time, oils derived from sunflower and sesame were used to prevent oral odor, gum decay, and bleeding, cracked lips, dryness of throat, and to strengthen gums, teeth, and jaw. Nowadays, oil pulling is recommended to be done early morning before breakfast by using one tablespoon of oil and swishing it around the mouth for approximately 20 minutes (5 to 10 minutes can be done in the beginning).
Which Oils Are Used for Oil Pulling?
The oils used for oil pulling are capable of diluting and absorbing toxins (environmental, chemical, and bacterial), thereby resulting in detoxification and purification of the mouth. For this purpose, the oils that work best are:
● Free from chemical residues.
The oils used since old times include sesame oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil, with most of the benefits reported. Coconut oil contains lauric acid that possesses anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antimicrobial action. It also reacts with alkalis present in saliva, reducing plaque formation, adhesion, and accumulation. Olive oil contains phytosterols, monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins A, E, and K. These components have antimicrobial, antioxidative, and immunomodulatory effects. Oil pulling using olive oil prevents plaque formation and oral malodor. Sesame oil also contains constituents (sesamolin, sesamin, and sesaminol) with detoxifying and antibiotic properties. Sunflower oil used for oil pulling is also known to reduce the risk of plaque and gingival disorders.
Benefits of Oil Pulling
Oil pulling has beneficial effects on overall health apart from oral health. According to Ayurveda, it is believed that the tongue is connected to multiple organs of the human body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, small intestine, spine, etc. Oil pulling removes toxins by activating the salivary enzymes that absorb the toxins from the blood via the oral mucosa, thereby detoxifying and purifying the entire human body. The other benefits of oil pulling are:
Eliminates Bad Breath
Most people have bad breath or oral malodor, which can be very embarrassing. There are many causes like food, medications, or oral disorders for bad breath, but the mechanism is almost the same whatever the cause. The bacteria accumulate in the mouth, tongue, teeth, and around the papillae. The accumulated bacteria is the cause of bad breath, which can be removed by oil pulling. It is as effective as chlorhexidine in mouthwash for removing bacteria from the mouth.
Kills Harmful Bacteria
Bacteria in the mouth are the common cause of all oral disorders, including infection, gum disease, tooth decay, bad breath, etc. Oil pulling works by killing these disease-causing harmful bacteria in the mouth. In a study conducted with 60 participants who rinse their mouth with mouthwash or coconut oil for at least two weeks, after two weeks, it was seen that both coconut oil and mouthwash reduces the number of harmful bacteria in saliva.
Improve Gum Health
Gum disease is a common oral disorder that mainly presents with swollen, red, and easy to bleed gums. The leading cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene, leading to the accumulation of bacteria forming plaque. Oil pulling with oils having anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties is known to reduce the risk of having gum disease. A study conducted on 60 participants suffering from gingivitis (gum disease) rinsed their mouth with coconut oil for 30 days. After one week of oil pulling, there was a marked reduction in plaque and significant improvement in gum health.
Prevents Tooth Cavities and Decay
Poor oral hygiene and consuming too much sugar can cause tooth cavities and decay. Both these factors cause the buildup of bacteria that cause plaque formation. Plaque is a layer on the tooth consisting of bacteria, saliva, and food particles. Bacteria present in plaque break down food particles releasing acid that destroys the enamel and, if not treated, ends up in tooth decay. Oil pulling is the natural and safest way to remove bacteria preventing the formation of cavities and tooth decay.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that oil pulling can remove stains from the teeth, making them whiter. Although more research is still needed to prove this effect, being harmless, one can try oil pulling for teeth whitening.
Thus oil pulling is a complementary method to improve oral health. If combined with brushing and flossing, it’ll work effectively in removing bacteria from the mouth. Removal of harmful bacteria can prevent plaque formation, which is the major cause of many oral health disorders. It also improves gum health and prevents oral malodor. Coconut oil is widely used with most of the effects reported, but olive oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil will also work in the same way. Without any side effects, oil pulling is one of the safest, easiest, and effective ways to keep your oral and general health at an optimum level.
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