While it has been around for thousands of years, the Ayurvedic oral health practice of “oil pulling” has started to attract an increasing number of American adherents in recent years. The technique, also known as “kavala” or “gundusha” depending on the specifics of how it is practiced, involves holding or swishing oil in the mouth and then spitting it out to capture and remove bacteria.
Now, before you throw away your toothbrush, floss, and paste, know that few U.S. dentists advocate oil pulling (if they recommend it at all) as a replacement for brushing and flossing. Most suggest that it may be a good addition to your existing oral hygiene regimen.
Oil pulling most commonly uses one of three types of oil:
The amount of time that you keep the oil in your mouth varies. Some experts say 20 minutes once a day is ideal. Others encourage multiple shorter sessions. Either way, there is general agreement that oil pulling takes some getting used to and should be done for very short durations initially.
There are additional claims about the benefits of oil pulling, everything from whitening teeth and clearing skin to increasing energy and decreasing headaches. However, there is little in the way of scientific testing to confirm these claims.
If you choose to add oil pulling to your morning or nighttime oral hygiene routine, here are a few tips:
- Tell your dentist. Your dentist and hygienist know your mouth well and can help you determine if the practice is improving your oral health. And while reports of negative side effects are rare, they can be on the lookout for those as well.
- Start slowly. Five minutes a day will allow you to get used to the taste and feel of the oil in your mouth. Increase the time of your sessions slowly over a period of weeks until you reach the desired length.
- Don’t swallow the oil. Regardless of what type of oil you use, it is intended to be spit out at the end of the session.
- Don’t spit in the sink. Oils may harden and cause clogs in your pipes. Spit the oil into a waste basket.
- Continue to brush and floss. Unless you and your dentist agree that oil pulling is all you need, keep brushing and flossing.
Any steps we can take to improve our oral health are good ones! Let us know how oil pulling works out for you!