Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > News> Talking Point > Does oil pulling help dental health?

Does oil pulling help dental health?

  • While oil pulling may improve oral health, there isn’t enough scientific evidence yet to prove its other claimed benefits
  • While brushing and flossing are obviously important for oral hygiene, oil pulling actually helps to bind, trap and eliminate more microorganisms

A recurring toothache led Rohan Bhargava to try oil pulling.
A recurring toothache led Rohan Bhargava to try oil pulling.

Rohan Bhargava, the 38-year-old co-founder of (a cashback and coupons website), starts his day at around 6 am with the ritual of coconut oil pulling. He follows this with an hour at the gym. He does both every day.

Bhargava started the practice of oil pulling a few months ago, at the behest of his yoga enthusiast wife Swati, when conventional treatment for a toothache didn’t work. “Desperate to find a lasting solution for my toothache, I decided to give coconut oil pulling a shot. Over time, I realized that this simple method is one of the easiest techniques to supplement dental health," he says. “Now I usually do it after waking up, when I am checking emails and getting some work done before I hit the gym," he adds.

The idea of swishing a mouthful of oil around, and then spitting it out, to cure oral disease might sound strange, but oil pulling is, it seems, not just an effective oral detoxification procedure but can actually improve overall health too. “That’s because the health of our mouth correlates with the rest of our body and when you keep your mouth clean and healthy, the rest of the body follows," says Hitanshi Kothari Khabya, founder of Hith Yoga and a propagator of oil pulling.

Though studies on this are few, oil pulling, done typically with coconut, sunflower or sesame oil, has ancient origins. Bhargava opted for coconut oil due to its anti-inflammatory properties. “Plus, coconut oil tastes better than sesame oil. That was a major factor in my selection," he says. Oil pulling is mentioned prominently in Ayurveda texts, but it has only recently resurfaced in a big way.

So how does it work? Khabya explains that toxins and bacteria build up in the mouth, and may lead to dental plaque if not removed in time—oil pulling helps “pull" them out of the mouth since the toxins stick to the oil. “Also there are no known risks associated with oil pulling, so that should put the minds of sceptics at rest," she says.

Actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra has been an advocate of oil pulling for a while and has been doing it regularly for six-seven years. “While brushing and flossing are obviously important for oral hygiene, oil pulling actually helps to bind, trap and eliminate more microorganisms and get into deep pockets within the teeth and into the difficult-to-reach regions around root canals," says Khabya.

Kundra says just brushing or flossing will not get infections out of the root canal, a breeding ground for bacteria. She adds that she has found 10 minutes of oil pulling one-two times a day extremely effective in minimizing bacteria.

How it helps

“Even today, it isn’t fully recognized yet by Western medicine, but it’s becoming more appreciated and understood," says Khabya. She lists the immediate benefits: Besides improving oral hygiene, it helps prevent formation of cavities, remove ama (toxins) from the oral cavity, inhibits plaque from forming, removes harmful bacterial and fungal infection, reduces inflammation and makes the gums, tongue and teeth stronger, strengthens the jaw and facial muscles, heals and prevents bleeding gums, treats halitosis, relieves dry throat and whitens the teeth.

“It can also boost our immune system, improve acne, and as a periodontal disease, bad bacteria build-up in our mouth can actually up our risk for heart disease—this is beneficial for a healthy heart too."

According to Ayurveda, oil pulling can cure over 30 systemic diseases when practised regularly and as directed. The Journal Of Ayurveda And Integrative Medicine mentions that the therapy is preventive as well as curative. It mentions that gargling with oil helps to purify the entire system—Ayurveda holds that each section of the tongue is connected to different organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart and colon.

There aren’t too many studies supporting these claims, though. One published in the Indian Journal Of Dental Research in 2009 did find that oil pulling with sesame oil had a positive effect on oral health and helped reduce plaque build-up, improved gum health scores, and also led to lower counts of harmful bacteria. Another article in the Journal Of Clinical And Diagnostic Research in 2014 found it could help curtail bad breath.

According to Rajesh Budhiraja, internal medicine, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Faridabad, oil pulling is effective in improving oral health and stopping plaque from forming, but we don’t yet have enough scientific evidence to prove its other claimed benefits—for instance, that it helps prevent diabetes or heart disease.

Dentists advise oil pulling only as a supplemental treatment to regular oral hygiene. “The methods of oral health that are tried-and-true shouldn’t be disregarded. Always continue to brush twice a day, floss daily, attend regular hygiene visits and visit your dentist even when practising coconut oil pulling," says Ekta Chadha, dental surgeon and founder of Smile Studio, Delhi.

How to do it right

Khabya says there are two forms of oil pulling. Gandusha involves filling the mouth completely with oil so that swishing is impossible, holding it for 3-5 minutes, and then spitting it out. The more popular Kavalgraha involves holding a little quantity of liquid in the mouth, swishing and gargling it for 10-20 minutes, then spitting it out. “Do it first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. After spitting, rinse the mouth with water or salt water. Ideally, do it every day, but at least two-three times a week. Make sure you do not swallow the oil during or after the practice as during the process it takes all the bacteria and toxins from the mouth which should not enter the system again," Khabya says.

Next Story