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Oil Pulling for Oral Health – Fact or Fad?

Mar 14, 2014

By Dean George

Is oil pulling really healthy for your teeth and gums, or is it just another crazy health fad like vitamin water and the cabbage soup diet?

As previously reported in Agent Straight-Talk, oil pulling is believed to possess some tangible oral health benefits, including preventing plaque, whiter teeth, fresher breath and some proponents say it has helped them recover from serious gum issues.

In case you think oil pulling involves a case of 5 x 30, a drain plug and an oil filter, the recent trend of gargling oil is borrowed from an ancient Indian practice of swishing vegetable oil in your mouth for several minutes every morning.  Sesame, sunflower and coconut oil are the most commonly used, but coconut oil is increasingly favored because it is believed to be the best at countering the bacteria most responsible for tooth cavities. (Streptococcus mutans) 

Proponents of the centuries-old practice also claim it treats asthma, diabetes, migraines, fatigue, arthritis, PMS, chronic skin issues, insomnia gingivitis, thrombosis and heart disease.  Oil pulling has enjoyed greater popularity in alternative medical circles since the 2008 publication of a book called, “Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing.”

Here’s how oil pulling generally works: the user swishes oil in their mouth first thing in the morning before eating or brushing their teeth. Users “push and pull” the oil back and forth in their mouth, letting it soak between their teeth and slosh into their gums. Some users advocate mimicking a chewing motion while swishing.

Depending upon whom you talk to, the oil must be constantly swished anywhere from 10-20 minutes every morning before spitting it out. (One CBS reporter airing a story on the oil pulling phenomenon cautioned against pouring the “spit cup” contents into a sink because it could clog pipes.)

Oil pulling does not substitute the need to brush, floss and keep regular dental visits, so skeptics dubious about the purported benefits see no real harm, as long as oil pulling users don’t swallow what they are swishing. Rolling the oil around your mouth massages the gums, and the fatty acids the oils contain can lead to healthier skin.

 A spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. John C. Comisi, told CBS News that oil pulling could theoretically be healthy for one’s mouth because oil’s alkaline base should counter the mouth’s lower pH levels caused when we eat foods and sugars.

"The reality is if it helps in some capacity reduce the caries risk in a natural format... I can't see it being harmful at this time," he said.

But skeptics point out that getting Americans to brush two minutes twice a day and floss frequently is tough enough. How many of those same people are going to begin their day swishing vegetable oil for 10-20 minutes before they brush?

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Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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