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Oil Pulling: Does Ancient Method of Oral Cleansing Really Work?

Image: Oil Pulling: Does Ancient Method of Oral Cleansing Really Work? Trending oral health practice of Oil Pulling or Swishing.

By Clyde Hughes   |   Thursday, 29 May 2014 11:13 AM

Oil pulling, the ancient practice of swishing the substance around in the mouth, continues to gain popularity despite a lack of credible studies showing any actual benefits to oral health.

U.S. News & World Report wrote last month that the method of oil pulling dates back 3,000 to 5,000 years ago as a traditional Indian remedy billed as a way to whiten your teeth, reduce bacteria, strengthen your gums and jaw, improve your skin, clear your sinuses, prevent ​bad breath, and even protect against heart and Alzheimer's disease. It has since taken off in today's society through word of mouth, with users calling the ritual everything from "dope" to "transforming."

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California nutritionist Gary Yaeger told the Contra Costa Times that benefits of using coconut oil in one's oil-pulling routine can vary, but pointed out that both he and his dental hygienist wife noticed health benefits.

"People may notice teeth whitening and the antimicrobial element could help them get rid of chronic bad breath," he said. "It has for me."

But Lyla Blake-Gumbs, a Cleveland Clinic physician at the facility's Center for Integrative Medicine, told U.S. News & World Report, that actual studies on oil pulling are limited and people should be cautious in expecting results.

"There's absolutely no data whatsoever that shows diabetes can be treated or prevented, or that heart disease can be," Blake-Gumbs said. "It's not a new practice — it's been done thousands of years — but there were no real records kept. So I can't go to any objective, well-run clinical trials to look into the other claims."

Taylor Anderson of Cosmopolitan magazine said readers should think carefully before pursuing an oil pulling regiment.

"I think many people would find it quite an unpleasant sensation," she wrote. "It also takes a real level of commitment to do this for 15-20 minutes every day. There is not enough evidence for oil pulling for me to confidently recommend it."

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