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Dr. Mike’s Personal Experience with Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurveda practice that has gained popularity in the U.S. over the past few years.

Oil pulling involves placing a tablespoon of oil into your mouth, swishing it around and pulling it through your teeth and gums for about 20 minutes. Oil pulling removes unwanted plaque, toxins, and bacteria from your mouth.

The practice might even prevent bad breath or certain gum diseases like gingivitis. In order to reap the benefits of oil pulling, it's recommended to swish the oil around in your mouth in the morning on an empty stomach, with cold pressed oils. These include sesame, coconut and sunflower oil.

Does oil pulling really work?

Listen in as Dr. Mike shares his personal experience with oil pulling and if it truly works or not.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: May 1, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

Living longer and staying healthier. It's Healthy Talk with Dr. Michael Smith, MD. Here's your host, Dr. Mike:

DR MIKE: So, I wanted to talk about my experience with something called oil pulling. For those of you that aren't familiar with this it's pretty simple. You take an oil--there's different types and I'm going to give you what I like to use and why in a second--but you take an oil you basically swish it around in your mouth from anywhere 5, 10, 15 minutes, you spit it out and it's really good for gums and teeth. Most of us probably understand that cavities and plaque, gingivitis, periodontal disease, it's an infection. As a matter of fact, there's a very specific bacteria pathogen called streptococcus mutans that is the culprit behind bad gums and plaque formation. Not so much cavities--that's a different set of bacteria that we see mostly in kids.

As we get older, streptococcus mutans increases and we tend to get more plaque and gingivitis type problems versus cavities but regardless of the bacterial type, bacteria have what is known as a "double membrane". It's a fat membrane that surrounds the insides of the bacteria so when you place an oil in your mouth and you swish it around for a while the oil, the fat in the oil, is attracted to the fat in the membrane of the bacteria and it's like it mechanically pulls the bacteria out of the pockets of your gums and when you spit it out, you spit out all that bacteria.

So, it's anti-microbial. Oil pulling ultimately is anti-microbial. At least, that's the theory behind it all. You know, I found some information about oil pulling that's pretty interesting. Using liquids in the mouth for health purposes is mentioned in two ancient Indian Ayurvedic texts--one written in 800 B.C. and the other in about 700 B.C. and it's considered one of the oldest practicing health systems in the world, oil pulling. Of course the conventional docs today, you know, the American Dental Association cautions because there's lack of evidence, I'm getting kind of sick of that. They do not recommend oil pulling as a replacement for standard oral health care, suggest flossing and teeth brushing. Of course not. Oil pulling doesn't replace anything. It's added to a normal, in my case, daily oral care regime. So, you continue to brush your teeth and floss and go see your dentist so they can be happy, you know, all that kind of stuff. There's apparently--now, I don't do this. There are two techniques and this is the technical part of oil pulling.

There's two Ayurvedic Indian medicine techniques one (I don't know if I'm going to pronounce this right but I'll try) one is called Kabbalah and the other one is called gan—I'm sorry Gandusha or "Gan-doo-sha". Kabbalah and Gandusha. Kabbalah is when you fill your mouth with the oil and hold it there for a couple of minutes before swirling it around the mouth and spitting it out. You do that for 3 or 4 minutes repeat it 2 or 3 times. The other technique the Gandusha is the technique of holding the oil still in the mouth but you don't really swish it around, you just hold it in there for 3-5 minutes and then you spit it out and then repeat as necessary. I mean, I didn't know about these two techniques these official techniques, I just put the—I use coconut oil and I'll explain why I use coconut oil--but I put coconut oil about a tablespoon, and I just swish it around like it's mouthwash. Maybe not as vigorously but I just you know—the word oil pulling comes from that swishing process so you pull the oil from one side to the other. If you're not careful, you can do it too hard.

At least for me, some of it you spit out which gets messy, so you don't have to do it so hard, but that's what you do. You kind of swish it around and move it from one side of the mouth to the other or technically you pull it from one side of the mouth to the other. It traps the bacteria like streptococcus mutans, you spit it out and you're decreasing what is called the biofilm--the biomass--and that helps with, it should help with gingivitis and just overall gum and tooth health.

And listen, it's worked awesome for me. In my family we have a history of receding gum lines. Receding gum lines usually for most people occur because of gingivitis periodontal disease but there is a family connection, a genetic connection, and it does run in our family. It's on my mom's side. All of my sisters deal with it, my mom dealt with it, my aunts. Almost everybody on my mom's side was affected a little bit but receding gum lines and what is that? Receding gum lines is simply where the gum recedes. It pulls up.

You know, if you're talking about your top teeth, for instance, the gum recedes up leaving a space then between the gum and the tooth and that just exposes the root a little bit and it can be painful. There are different degrees of it and I think that's actually how the dentist will diagnose it. You'll get different numbering system so like a receding gum line #1 is just a small little space. Number 2 is a larger space. Number 3 is a space that actually needs surgery and what they do is, they take a piece a tissue from the top of your mouth and then just suture it in filling in that space that's been created because the gum receded.

And by the way, that's ultimately how most dentists handle it. Now, if receding gum line is diagnosed as #1 or #2 sometimes the laser treatments help a little bit. With laser treatments what they're doing is, they stick the laser catheter down into the pocket of the gum, the deep pocket, and they shoot the laser and it kills the bacteria. And that's what oil pulling is doing as well. It's killing the bacteria. So, I decided I was going to go—and, you know, I do have on my upper jaw on the left side, I have a couple of teeth that the gums are starting to recede. Probably on one tooth #1 and another tooth #2 and #2, that root is about the be exposed so I definitely don't want to happen. And

so, I thought, "Let me do this. Let me do a 6 month experiment with oil pulling." never did it before but I have a lot of friends in alternative medicine who just love it. They talk about it all the time and so I thought, "Okay. Let me just give it a try." So, I said I was going to do this for 6 months and just see what might happen. Historically speaking, people will talk about cleaner teeth , plaque formation goes down, the gums are healthier, no more bleeding gum, no more gingivitis, and in some cases, people talk about the gum line improving and even increasing for those that have receding gum lines. So, I thought, let me just give it a shot.

I did choose coconut oil. I do think that is the best oil to use. Coconut oil has three primary saturated fats in it so, by the way, when you first use coconut oil, when you scoop it out, about a tablespoon out of the jar, it's a solid fat. It's saturated. So, saturated fats are solids at room temperature. So, it's solid and it's kind of weird when it first goes in your mouth but you just start swishing it around. For me, a tablespoon after about ten minutes, it starts to become very liquid and at that point I believe the process is pretty much done. So, once it becomes real easy to swish it around almost like it's water you can spit it out, rinse your mouth out, brush your teeth at that point. I did that for...Gosh, I did that for—it hasn't really technically been 6 months yet.

It's been about 5 months and the results have been amazing. One of the key saturated fats in the coconut oil is called lauric acid and there's some good evidence that it actually is beneficial in fighting streptococcus mutans and it's worked wonders for me. My teeth are better, my gums are healthier, and I really do believe it does seem that the receding part of my gum has improved. I know. It's crazy! But it's working. Oil pulling. I do it every day. So, give it a shot if you have some gum issues and some oral issues. It might help.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.