Oil pulling, also known as "kavala" or "gundusha," is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes. This action is believed to draw out toxins in your body, primarily to improve oral health, but also to improve your overall health.

It may be an ancient health practice, but it is getting the attention of modern science. Recent studies show that oil pulling helps heal gingivitis, control plaque, and reduce microorganisms that cause bad breath. How? In a recent WebMD article, Jessica T. Emery, DMD, explains, “Most microorganisms inhabiting the mouth consist of a single cell. Cells are covered with a lipid, or fatty, membrane, which is the cell's skin. When these cells come into contact with oil, a fat, they naturally adhere to each other."  In other words, oil can attach to bacteria cells so that they can be rinsed out.

Incorporate Oil Pulling into Your Dental Health Routine. Oil pulling traditionally has used sesame oil, but sunflower and coconut oil are also excellent to use. Coconut oil in particular has the extra benefit of containing antimicrobial agents. It may also be more palatable for some people.

Start with five minutes a day; build up to 20 minutes daily. Swishing and pulling the oil between you teeth is an unusual sensation—it can take some time to get used to it. Start with five minutes of daily swishing and increase by five minutes, over a few weeks.

Use small amounts of oil. You don’t need a big mouthful for oil pulling to be beneficial. If you find you are swallowing oil (which you should not do), then spit it out and use a smaller amount.

Continue routine dental care. Oil pulling should not replace routine dental hygiene. Continue to brush, floss, and use mouthwash daily.

  • Singh, A., and B. Purohit. “Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling, and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 2, no. 2 (April 2011): 64–68. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.82525.
  • WebMD. "Should You Try Oil Pulling?" Reviewed June 4, 2014.
  • Image:  B-D-S/
May 06, 2015