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Oil pulling is an ancient Indian folk remedy first mentioned in the early Ayurveda text “Compendium of Charaka,” the Charaka Samhita, which was believed to have been written approximately 1500 years ago.
One oil pulls by swishing a tablespoon of oil (sesame, coconut and sunflower are commonly recommended) in one’s mouth for approximately 15-20 minutes on an empty stomach and then spitting it out. For a “how to” video click here.
The Charaka Samhita describes oil pulling as being capable of improving more than just oral health, but also 30 other systemic diseases ranging from headache, migraine to diabetes and asthma.
In the first account, modern scientific inquiry increasingly confirms oil pulling’s benefit to oral health is real and not imagined:
As far as systemic benefits, because oil pulling radically adjusts the composition of bacteria in the mouth, and because the health of the mouth affects the health of the entire body, it is logical that it would be of value for a variety of health conditions.
When pathogenic bacteria grow to harmful proportions in the mouth, and especially when there is systemic inflammation in the gums, bacterial cells and/or their highly immunogenic cell substructures, e.g. lipopolysaccharide, can enter the blood wreaking widespread havoc.
One common cause of this ongoing bacteria-mediated inflammation is the presence of a root canal. There are many reasons to avoid root canals, and common sense would dictate keeping a dead piece of your body attached to living tissue is a bad idea, but millions undergo this procedure under the advice of their dentist or endodontic specialist without fully being informed of the deleterious health consequences.
The reality is that there are miles of maze-like microtubules within the dead tooth, a perfect breeding ground for anaerobic oral microorganisms that secrete potent endotoxins, and impossible to completely fill with dental compounds.
Case in point, a 1998 study published in the journal Annuals of Periodontology titled “Anaerobic bacteremia and fungemia in patients undergoing endodontic therapy: an overview,” found that endodontic therapy (root canal) is associated with high rates of infection (up to 54%) with anaerobic bacteria:
“Oral focal infection, a concept neglected for several decades, is a subject of controversy. Recent progress in classification and identification of oral microorganisms has renewed interest in focal infection. The aim of this study was to use phenotypic and genetic methods to trace microorganisms released into the bloodstream during and after endodontic treatment back to their presumed source–the root canal. Microbiological samples were taken from the root canals of 26 patients with asymptomatic apical periodontitis of single-rooted teeth. The blood of the patients was drawn during and 10 minutes after endodontic therapy. Microorganisms in blood were collected after anaerobic lysis filtration and cultured anaerobically on blood agar plates. The phenotypic methods used for characterization and tracing of microorganisms in blood and root canals were: biochemical and antimicrobial susceptibility test, SDS-PAGE of whole-cell soluble proteins, and gas chromatography of cellular fatty acids. Phenotypic data were verified by DNA restriction patterns and corresponding ribotypes of the root canal and blood isolates by using a computer-assisted system fro gel analysis. All root canals contained anaerobic bacteria. The frequency of bacteremia varied from 31% to 54%. The microorganisms from the root canal and blood presented identical phenotype and genetic characteristics within the patients examined. These characteristics differed between patients. The present study demonstrated that endodontic treatment can be the cause of anaerobic bacteremia and fungemia. The phenotypic and genetic methods used appeared valuable for tracing microorganisms in the blood back to their origin.”
Other more recent research confirms this finding. A 2005 study in the Journal of Dentistry also found “Detection of bacteraemias during non-surgical root canal treatment.” View article here.
Unfortunately, root canals lead to the secretion of endotoxins directly into the blood, and while oil pulling may reduce some of the fall out from having an infected tooth, it will not resolve the underlying issue. Often, removal of the canaled tooth is the only permanent solution.
For additional research on the value of oil pulling visit our page on the topic: Oil Pulling.
[i] Sharath Asokan, R Saravana Kumar, Pamela Emmadi, R Raghuraman, N Sivakumar. Effect of oil pulling on halitosis and microorganisms causing halitosis: a randomized controlled pilot trial. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2011 Apr-Jun;29(2):90-4. PMID: 21911944
[ii] Sharath Asokan, Pamela Emmadi, Raghuraman Chamundeswari. Effect of oil pulling on plaque induced gingivitis: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. Indian J Dent Res. 2009 Jan-Mar;20(1):47-51. PMID: 19336860
[iii] S Asokan, J Rathan, M S Muthu, Prabhu V Rathna, P Emmadi, ,. Effect of oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans count in plaque and saliva using Dentocult SM Strip mutans test: a randomized, controlled, triple-blind study. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent. 2008 Mar;26(1):12-7. PMID: 18408265
[iv] Sharath Asokan, T K Rathinasamy, N Inbamani, Thangam Menon, S Senthil Kumar, Pamela Emmadi, R Raghuraman. Mechanism of oil-pulling therapy – in vitro study. Indian J Dent Res. 2011 Jan-Feb;22(1):34-7. PMID: 21525674