Love to floss

The Skinny on Oil Pulling

Magic Mouthwash or Hogwash?

By Dr. Sanda Moldovan, DDS
March 1, 2014

When I first mentioned oil pulling to my friend from Texas - she yawned and said, "Yes, Dr. Sanda, I know all about the oil field. I grew up with roughnecks and wildcatters, remember?” I laughed and explained to her that in my periodontal and health and wellness practices it has an entirely different meaning, but could quite possibly have been around as long as 'Texas tea.'

Oil pulling is certainly enjoying a hype equivalent to an oil boom, as the cure-all for a number of diseases and oral health issues with its amazing detox benefits.

Its origins are in India. You can find information on oil pulling in the early text of Ayurvedic medicine, the Charaka Samhita. But its medicinal properties are spreading like wildfire on websites and popular television shows such as Dr. Oz.

When we improve oral health, we improve so many other things in the body. People with bad oral hygiene have higher incidence for cardiovascular issues such as heart attack and strokes, and a higher incidence for pneumonia. Men with periodontal disease have a greater risk of erectile dysfunction. Even with diabetes, improved oral health can help control problems in diabetic patients. Also, pregnant women with gum disease have lower birth-weight babies. Everything is connected.

Oil pulling (or oil gargling) is a process that takes about 20 minutes. (I often wonder who has that kind of time?) You place a tablespoon of any unrefined oil - such as sesame, coconut, or sunflower - in your mouth, and swish it around long enough to coat your teeth and gums. The bacteria and toxins are literally 'pulled' from your mouth. You see the process as the oil goes from clear to a white, milky substance, which removes plaque like a soap.

We don't have any evidence to show that oil pulling is a good treatment for gum disease. And it makes sense that it wouldn't. Mouthwash is not a good treatment for periodontal disease, either. Neither oil nor mouthwash gets under the gum more than a millimeter or two.

I hate to be a spoil-sport, but oil pulling can't heal cavities either. However, since it does reduce cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth, it can slow or halt cavities that are already developing.

Does oil pulling work?

What we've really just discovered with oil pulling is an old way to clean your mouth more thoroughly than you probably are now. And it seems appealing as a new and improved thing to do, instead of just getting in there with toothbrush and floss.

When you have a healthier mouth, there is less inflammation in your body, and across the board - everything can heal better, the skin is better, you're in a better mood, you have more energy.

Gum disease is a chronic infection in the mouth. Your body is constantly trying to fight the bacteria from entering your body. That is stressful for us. Once the infection improves because we have better oral hygiene, we feel better and look better.

Oil pulling is not a substitute for brushing and flossing altogether, as many are claiming. I recommend using an oral irrigator - with the Waterpik Water Flosser brand being an excellent choice - as the ideal cleaner for getting between teeth and preventing inflammation.

I see with my patients using oil pulling that there is still inflammation between the teeth, so flossing and oral irrigation are a must! In my opinion, brushing for two minutes twice a day and water flossing daily for 60 seconds is much, much better than oil pulling.

The mouth is the gateway to your overall health, so take good care of it!

In great health,

Dr. Sanda