The practice also tones the facial muscles.
The practice of oil pulling is at least 3000-5000 years old, referred to in Ayurvedic texts as kavala or gandusha, and was an ancient form of oral care, akin to brushing teeth.
This ancient practice has since made waves in the age of the Internet.
The practice is essentially swirling oil, be it coconut, palm, mustard, or olive, in the mouth thoroughly for about 20 minutes.
Although fairly simple, it is best to start with five minutes of oil pulling before gradually increasing.
It is also important to not swallow the oil after the swirling activity as it will contain germs.
Eventually, aim to add oil pulling as a valuable addition to one’s oral hygiene routine, possibly after regular brushing, or even after meals.
Morning productivity enthusiasts can incorporate this passive process such as while doing light exercises or journaling.
Traditional sources recommend that oil pulling should be performed on an empty stomach.
There are claims both propounding and denouncing its effects on the internet, ranging from near-miraculous benefits to reputed science journals busting claims.
Nonetheless, as with natural remedies, the possibility of harm is minimal in moderation.
It is interesting to find netizens swearing by the practice and even claiming to be obsessed.
However, classical sources have detailed explanations of the side effects of overdoing oil pulling, like excessive thirst and mouth dryness.
To treat this, do gandusha with honey, or ingredients of sweet or astringent tastes.
In cases of inflammation, gandusha with milk, honey, or ghee is suggested.
The regular practice of oil pulling promotes oral hygiene as documented by the evidence of reducing harmful bacteria in the mouth, plaque build-up, improvement of gum health, and fresher breath.
In Ayurvedic texts, ama is a key concept, which on the tongue is present as toxic by-products.
Oil pulling removes ama by preventing its circulation and promotes oral health by reducing the associated risks.
The swirling action of oil in the mouth draws out particles and microbes with fat-soluble membranes supposedly removing these substances almost like a magnet, as they selectively dissolve in the oil.
Some individuals reported that regular oil pulling enhanced their taste perception, which was likely due to the reduction of accumulated toxins and residue on the buccal surfaces.
The claim that oil pulling causes a heightened ability to taste and appreciate flavours is anecdotal, but this could be a healthy motivation to start.
The probable reason for this is the taste buds’ detoxification.
If the presence of microplastics, carcinogenic substances, and unknown heavy metals in our food and air is concerning, do take note that oil pulling would provide a level of defence to reduce such harmful influences.
Reducing Bad Breath
Bad breath primarily arises from bacteria decomposing food particles that emit foul-smelling volatile sulphur compounds.
Apart from removing the bacteria, the oils function as a mild deterrent to bad breath.
Suitable oils include olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, and even ghee.
Furthermore, herbs such as peppermint, tulsi/basil, lemon grass, orange peels, cumin, and turmeric can be infused for an additional effect.
In terms of Ayurveda, which speaks about the doshas or bodily imbalances, specific combinations of oil pulling are reported to have effects such as the cooling of pitta and clearing of the kapha doshas.
Proponents of oil pulling have extensively claimed teeth whitening effects upon oil pulling, removal of stains, and reversing teeth discolouration.
The swishing action of the oil reportedly dissolves and removes these surface stains on the teeth.
Furthermore, the oil’s properties aid in the lifting and loosening of hard-to-remove sticky biofilms and particles.
Stains and discolouration of the teeth arise from consuming high sugar-content drinks, smoking, or snacking throughout the day.
Bad teeth might cause self-confidence issues, and therefore, oil pulling can help us smile our best.
Furthermore being a non-abrasive method, unlike some teeth whitening products that may damage the tooth enamel, oil pulling would help preserve the natural whiteness of our teeth.
Alternative to Mouthwash
Along with the numerous positive effects of oil pulling, for sustainability purposes and also as a natural inexpensive alternative, one might consider oil pulling over mouthwash.
Combining the base oil and condition-specific herbs, oil pulling can be considered a safe yet mild alternative to mouthwashes, as consumers become weary of the chemicals, preservatives, alcohol, and artificial flavours present in store-bought mouthwashes.
Furthermore, the process stimulates salivary production and flow, which maintains oral health.
The saliva has certain properties to keep the teeth well-groomed, neutralise acids, and remove particles, almost like a built-in mouth-washing mechanism.
There is some scientific literature on the effect of oil pulling on preventing gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease characterised by gum inflammation.
The reduced bacterial load contributes to healthier gums.
Gingivitis arises from plaque build-up on the gum line composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva.
Without oral hygiene, plaque irritates and inflames gums, culminating in gingivitis.
Regular brushing and flossing are crucial for its prevention.
By removing dental plaque and biofilms, oil pulling eliminates the breeding ground for bacteria and toxins that contribute to gingivitis and other gum diseases that lead to bleeding gums.
As cavities arise from the gradual build-up of microbes, plaque formation, and acid production in the mouth, the effect of oil pulling on preventing tooth decay and cavities has been speculated.
Oil pulling can help balance the pH levels in the mouth by reducing acidity to make the environment less favourable for acid-producing bacteria, which contribute to tooth decay and cavity formation.
Some oils, such as sesame oil, can inhibit the production of acid by bacteria in the oral cavity.
By reducing acid production, oil pulling can help minimise the demineralisation of tooth enamel and cavity progression.
Furthermore, coconut oil contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
These minerals can be beneficial for the remineralisation and strengthening of tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to acid attacks and cavity formation.
The regular practice of oil pulling with oils with antibacterial effects such as sesame or tea tree oil, can help inhibit the growth of bacteria associated with dental caries, thereby reducing the risk of cavities.
The sense of mindfulness and relaxation of this gentle practice is a benefit on its own, while the other exciting benefits might not be visible overnight.
The act of swishing the oil in the mouth for a few minutes can be a calming practice and serve as a self-care ritual, to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
A sensory engagement is involved in the practice, which can be of a ritualistic or meditative nature, as one spends time bringing attention to the mouth.
Sinus Congestion Relief
Some individuals have reported experiencing relief from sinus congestion and related symptoms through oil pulling.
Although a less traditional treatment option, oil pulling is lauded as “extremely effective for treating the all too common condition of a sinus infection” on popular alternate health websites.
Including essential oils, such as eucalyptus and peppermint oils in the base oil would help open the airways and ease congestion.
However, oil pulling with strong-scented oils might be uncomfortable, to begin with.
Enhanced Skin Health
Oil pulling’s potential benefits on skin health and sleep quality have been linked to reduced germs and a sense of well-being when practised before bedtime.
While oil pulling isn’t a one-size-fits-all practice and the research is limited, blogs and videos on the internet report the beneficial effects of oil pulling on skin health and sleep quality.
The practice also tones the facial muscles.
This routine would potentially aid in falling asleep quicker and improving sleep quality.
Establishing a bedtime routine would signal the body that it’s time to relax.
Further anecdotal evidence of oil pulling includes reduced inflammation, and positive effects on headaches, hangovers, skin conditions, and asthma.
Traditional sources prescribe the act for the maintenance of voice, for professionals like teachers and singers.
The process can also be done with various other liquids for different sets of benefits.
To combat the pollution entering our bodies, minds, and the environment, the rediscovery of such simple practices and incorporating healthier habits can be a real solution.
The coronavirus pandemic reminded us that we breathe in various kinds of germs in close contact and public spaces.
The oral cavity is most susceptible to external influences that might enter the body.
Therefore, the inculcation of new habits, many of which can be rediscovered from indigenous sources, would be key to our good health and longevity.
Until more research is done, oil pulling should be seen as complementary, and not a substitute for professional dental care.
As we look for sustainable ways to survive and thrive, the phenomenal interest in oil pulling brings a focus on the generational remedies of indigenous cultures.