At the restorative, cosmetic, and general dentistry practice of Victor R. Siegel, DDS, we work hard to stay abreast of the latest developments in dentistry - even when it means investigating the merits of dental practices that date back thousands of years. In this particular instance, we are referring to the practice of oil pulling, an ancient oral health remedy that has experienced a resurgence in popularity recently. Its increase in popularity has been accompanied by controversy, as some people question whether the practice produces any beneficial effect and might, if done incorrectly, actually be harmful.
Among patients of our practice in Rockville, oil pulling is not particularly recommended as part of a daily oral health regimen; however, it is not discouraged if done properly. The important thing to remember is that even the healthiest and safest folk remedies are never to be considered substitutes for the tried and true practices of brushing, flossing, rinsing with ADA-approved mouthwashes, and regular visits to the dentist for professional cleanings and thorough oral examinations.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is an oral health treatment that dates back 3,000 years and is part of the Ayurvedic medical tradition. The practice involves either swishing oil around in the mouth (the “kavala” technique) or holding it still in the mouth (the “gandusa” technique) and then spitting it out. Proponents of oil pulling suggest leaving the oil in the mouth for either 15 to 20 minutes straight or for three or four cycles of three to four minutes each.
Several types of oil can be used, including sesame and sunflower oil; however, most people use coconut oil, as it contains lauric acid, a powerful anti-microbial substance. The theory behind oil pulling is sound enough; the harmful bacteria and plaque within your mouth essentially “stick” to and dissolve in the oil and are eliminated when you spit it out. Scientific studies have demonstrated that there is some benefit to oil pulling, as it can reduce the amount of bacteria and plaque in the mouth, in addition to helping to fight against gingivitis and bad breath.
Are there risks associated with oil pulling?
If oil pulling has been scientifically proven to be at least somewhat effective, why aren’t dentists universally embracing and promoting the practice?
First of all, the few studies that have been conducted have not definitively proven that oil pulling is an effective adjunct to a rigorous oral hygiene regimen. So far, the studies have been conducted on people with poor oral hygiene up to that point. Their use of oil pulling coincided with improved oral hygiene habits.
Second, there are risks associated with oil pulling. Excessive or improper oil pulling can result in dry mouth, chronic thirst, and the loss of taste and other sensations in the mouth.
Third, there are many wild claims circulating on the Internet, including the claim that oil pulling can replace brushing and flossing and that it can cure a variety of diseases. These claims are largely outrageous and not founded in science.
If you decide to attempt oil pulling, please start out conservatively and do not overdo it. And please - please - do not treat it as a replacement for your normal oral health regimen. Continue to brush, floss, rinse, and visit your dentist as you normally would.
For further information, please contact the practice of Victor R. Siegel today.