Oil pulling: what is it and does it actually work?

Everyone’s at it, but can oil pulling really improve your health?

Oil pulling
(Image credit: John Salangsang/BFA/REX/Shutterstock)

Everyone’s at it, but can oil pulling really improve your health?

Oil pulling seems to be the latest trend revolutionising the beauty world. Shailene Woodley reportedly does it, while Gwyneth Paltrow swears by it. But what actually is oil pulling? And more importantly, does it even work?

Oil pulling: what is it?

Oil pulling is essentially a dental wash, which involves swishing oil around your mouth for 10-20 minutes. The oil supposedly draws bad bacteria and toxins from your gums and salivary glands and lessens bad breath.

It also helps prevent cavities and gingivitis and is often used as a teeth whitening treatment. And thanks to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Jenner, the practice has recently become popular again.

Aside from the dental benefits, fans claim oil pulling also boasts a whole heap of health properties from easing headaches and softening hangovers to relieving skin issues like psoriasis and eczema.

Oil pulling: with coconut oil

You’ll need about a tablespoon of oil. Gwyneth opts for coconut oil, saying: ‘It’s supposed to be great for oral health and making your teeth white.’

Other fans of coconut oil include Lindsay Lohan, Bella Thorne and Kylie Jenner who all swear by popular pulling product, cocowhite (which is basically coconut oil).

oil pulling cocowhite

instagram kylie jenner coco white

If you’re game, use whatever oil you have to hand in your kitchen, whether that’s olive, vegetable, sunflower or sesame oil. Pop a spoonful in your mouth and set about swishing; you’re looking at 10-20 minutes of swishing action depending on how long you can tolerate the sensation of oil in your mouth. Once your time is up, have a hearty spit and then rinse your mouth out with water.

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Oil pulling: how does it work?

As you would expect with a method that dates back a few centuries, there’s no real definitive proof of how it works. Some say that the oil attracts toxins much in the same way a magnet would, others say it’s the lipids in the oil that absorb the toxins, while others say it’s the mechanical action of swishing something gloopy around your mouth and in-between your teeth that swoops away bad bacteria.

In short, who the hell knows? Regular oil pullers do say, however, that you’ll know it’s working when the oil becomes thick and white.

Oil pulling: do it work?

You’ll be hard-pushed to find a reputable expert to categorically say that oil pulling does all the things it's supposed to. If it really treated headaches, arthritis and the like, chances are the method wouldn’t have fallen out of fashion.

That said, there was a study published in 2009 called ‘the effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis; a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study’, that found levels of plaque dropped in research participants who swished sesame oil every day for 10 days. But there was a similar drop in the control group who were swishing an antiseptic.

The jury is out on whether oil pulling actually works; we suppose the proof is in the trying. But, for what it’s worth, we’ll be sticking with our Listerine for now...

What else can you do for healthy teeth?

Brush twice a day, every day: And brush before you eat breakfast in the morning so as not to brush off the enamel.

Invest in an electric toothbrush: This ensures a much deeper, more thorough clean than manuals.

Floss between meals: We know we should floss in the morning and evening when brushing, but flossing between meals prevents a build up of food in-between our teeth.

Avoid acidic food and drinks when possible: these weaken the enamel of your teeth, leading to the danger of longer-term damage.

Visit your dentist every 6 months-1 year: Keeping on top of things is the best way to treat any current issues and prevent future problems.

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