With a recent push for more natural remedies for ailments of all sorts, oil pulling is enjoying a surge in popularity. While the desire for natural remedies is understandable, each remedy should be evaluated for both potential benefits and drawbacks.
What is oil pulling?
Oil pulling is the practice of swishing a tablespoonful of edible oil through the mouth, especially between teeth. These oils may include coconut, sesame, olive, sunflower, or other oils that can be safely consumed. It is a folk remedy from southern Asia, where the practice goes back centuries.
The supposed benefits of oil pulling are numerous:
- Teeth whitening.
- Eliminating plaque buildup.
- Battling gum disease.
- Reducing cavities.
- Easing inflammation.
What does the evidence say?
At this time, there is no scientific evidence to substantiate these claims about the benefits of oil pulling. Studies into the practice continue, but the data so far does not support oil pulling as a reliable way of improving oral health. Until more scientific evidence is gathered, the American Dental Association recommends refraining from this practice.
What are the side effects?
In addition to the lack of scientific evidence for the practice, there are negative side effects to consider as well. These side effects could include upset stomach, diarrhea, and lipoid pneumonia. Another potential side effect could be linked to the use of certain herbal oils. The concern is that those herbal oils could contain lead, mercury, or arsenic. All three of these substances are harmful to the entire body.
What should I do instead?
The ADA recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing once a day, and attending regular dental visits to maintain good oral health. Patients with discolored teeth should also consider quitting smoking and reducing exposure to beverages that stain teeth (wine, tea, coffee, etc).
If you are looking to whiten your teeth or alleviate other oral health concerns, make an appointment at your dental office. Your dentist can help you find a solution that will safely improve your oral health.