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Does Oil Pulling Work? Examining the Effectiveness of This Natural Oral Care Method

Health & Wellness
Oil pulling

Ayurveda emphasizes that good oral health is essential for maintaining good mental and physical well-being. Oil pulling is one of the key aspects of Ayurveda health practices and can be used to promote and sustain good oral health. From an Ayurvedic point of view, poor oral health can lead to a variety of health issues. Therefore, it is essential to practice oil pulling to detoxify the body and maintain good oral health.

Oil pulling benefits in reducing plaque buildup, gum inflammation, and tooth decay. It is also said to brighten teeth and improve breath. Oil pulling is also considered to be cost-effective. The concept of oil pulling has been mentioned in ancient texts such as the Charak Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita as the Kavala Graha and the Ghandoosha.

This article provides an overview of the oil-pulling process, including the history and origin of the practice, the science behind it, and the health benefits associated with oil-pulling. 

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is a centuries-old Ayurvedic practice that involves swirling oil around your mouth for a few minutes. Swirling oil around your mouth is generally done until you experience uncontrollable salivation, secretions of mucus and thin watery discharge through the nose and the eyes, and a noticeable reduction in the taste. The specific duration of this practice may vary depending on individual experiences, as it is based on these criteria rather than a fixed time period.

It leads to better oral health and overall well-being. Your mouth is home to over 600 types of bacteria, some of which are good bacteria that help keep your mouth healthy. But the rest of them can cause all sorts of nasty stuff, like cavities, bad breath, and bleeding gums.

Oil pulling helps get rid of these germs by using a simple process. The bacteria in your mouth are surrounded by a lipid membrane, which sticks to the oil. When the oil is swished around your mouth, the bacteria break away from the soft tissues and attach to the oil. Then, when you spit out the oil, it gets flushed out. 

History of Oil Pulling

The practice of oil pulling has its roots in Ayurveda medicine, which originated in India approximately 3,000 years ago. These ancient practitioners employed oil pulling to address various oral health issues, such as diabetes, asthma, migraines, and gingivitis. Sesame and sunflower oils were also used in traditional gargling techniques, such as Gandusha and Kavala Graha.

However, research has demonstrated that the oil pulling benefits extend beyond oral health, as it has been found to reduce systemic disease risk. This suggests that traditional oil pulling may be beneficial for both oral and overall health. 

The Science Behind Oil Pulling

When you use oil pulling, you’re essentially using the oil as mouthwash. Not only does it help remove bacteria from your mouth, but the oil also has valuable properties that reduce inflammation and bacteria which helps improve oral health. In particular, many of the bacteria that live in your mouth stick to the oil and get flushed out because of the fatty outer covering of the oil. This means that the oil gets into places that your toothbrush may not be able to reach. Your mouth will be clean and fresh to the core.

A study has demonstrated that oil pulling improves mechanical cleansing through the process of saponification and emulsification. Oil pulling also provides a facial workout that relieves tension around the jawline. Additionally, oil pulling helps to sustain natural flora and maintain a healthy pH in the mouth. 

The Best Oil to Use for Oil Pulling

coconut oil

If you're looking for oil-pulling, sesame, sunflower, butter, coconut, and olive oils are some of the most popular options. Some of the health benefits of these oils include:

  • Sesame oil has vitamin E, vitamin K, and antioxidants that can help stop bad cholesterol from getting into your liver
  • Olive oil has antiviral properties
  • Coconut oil can help stop bacteria from growing in your mouth
  • Improves your buccal mucosa

However, coconut oil is known to be highly effective for oil pulling due to its anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, as well as its action against Streptococcus mutans found in saliva. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, an anti-microbial agent that kills bacteria, thus reducing bad breath and acidity in the mouth. Coconut oil kills bacteria, treats tooth decay, reduces gum infection, removes bad breath, boosts immunity, and promotes healing. However, it's essential to make sure you're using natural coconut oil that doesn't contain any additives or preservatives. 

How do you do Oil pulling?

Oil pulling is done in a few easy steps. It’s best to do it in the morning, before eating or drinking anything. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Place one tablespoon of your choice of oil in your mouth. Traditionally sesame oil is used, but coconut oil is also a great option as it has better palatability. Swish the oil around in your mouth for about 5 to 10 minutes. Once you’re comfortable with oil pulling and have done it several times, you can extend it up to 20 minutes. Give the oil enough time to break down the plaque and bacteria inside your mouth, but don’t hold it in for too long as your body may start to reabsorb the toxins.
  • Spit the oil out into the trash. Don't swallow even a little bit of oil since it is full of toxins and bacteria.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water and use a brush to cleanse it.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times a week.

The Oil Pulling Benefits

Here are some of the top health benefits of oil pulling: 

1. Kills Harmful Bacteria in Your Mouth

The presence of bacteria in the mouth can result in the formation of cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Oil pulling has been found to be effective in eliminating these bacteria, thus promoting oral hygiene and the prevention of certain adverse oral health conditions. A study conducted on coconut oil pulling has demonstrated that it significantly reduces the amount of bacteria present in saliva.

oral hygiene

2. Reduces Bad Breath

Halitosis, also known as bad breath, is caused by a variety of factors, such as poor oral hygiene, gum diseases, tongue coating, and infection, and affects approximately half of the population. 

A recent study has revealed that oil pulling is an effective and natural solution to halitosis. 

Bad breath

3. Helps Prevent Cavities and Whitens Your Teeth 

Tooth decay is caused by the accumulation of food particles, plaque, and bacteria. Oil pulling aids in the prevention of tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Additionally, oil pulling improves the appearance of teeth by eliminating plaque build-up. Additionally, it clears toxins and microorganisms, resulting in naturally white teeth. 

teeth whitening

4. Supports Detoxification of the Body

Oral health is closely linked to overall health. The presence of harmful bacteria in the mouth can lead to health issues. Oil pulling helps improve oral health, thus promoting overall health.

5. Prevents Oral Diseases

Oil pulling has been demonstrated to be a beneficial practice in the prevention of oral health issues such as gingivitis, bleeding gums, cavities, bad breath, and bacterial build-up in the mouth. As previously discussed, oil pulling works by extracting toxins and microorganisms from the mouth, teeth, and gums. 

Regular oil pulling can help reduce the risk of developing oral diseases. A study conducted to assess the efficacy of oil pulling revealed that it significantly reduces plaque and aids in the prevention of gingivitis.

complete oral care

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Ayurveda say about oil pulling?

According to Ayurveda, oil pulling has been used for centuries as a form of medicine to reduce tooth decay, improve breath quality, reduce bleeding in the gums, reduce dry throat, reduce cracked lips, and strengthen the gums, teeth, and jaw. 

Is there any science behind oil pulling? 

According to research, oil pulling creates antioxidants that break down the cell walls of microorganisms, killing them. The oils attract the lipids of the bacteria's cell membranes, causing them to stick or be attracted and then being pulled onto the oil. As the oil is pulled, it gets more and more emulsified, and its surface area increases.

This oil coats the teeth and the gingiva and stops bacteria from co-aggregating and making more plaque. This helps get rid of the bacteria that cause plaque in the mouth, which can cause cavities, gum disease, periodontal disease, and bad breath. Because oil acts like a protective layer on the inside of your cheek (buccal mucosa), using oils like sesame, coconut, or olive oil can make their effects last longer in that area and have a sustained impact. 


Oil pulling is an excellent addition to teeth cleaning and flossing. The ritualistic nature of oil pulling is beneficial not only for oral health but also for establishing a sense of routine and equilibrium in daily life. For all the reasons mentioned above, the best way to keep your mind and body healthy is to keep your mouth healthy. Oil pulling is one of Ayurveda’s essential health practices and can help promote and sustain good health. Consider making this easy and affordable habit a part of your daily routine.

However, if you experience any adverse reactions, you should discontinue oil pulling and consult with an Ayurvedic health practitioner. 

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1 comment

  • The practice of oil pulling has its roots in Ayurveda medicine, which originated in India approximately 3,000 years ago. Oil pulling is an excellent addition to teeth cleaning and flossing. The ritualistic nature of oil pulling is beneficial not only for oral health but also for establishing a sense of routine and equilibrium in daily life.

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