Beginning as part of the Ayurveda medicine system in ancient India, it is widely claimed that swilling oil in the mouth for approximately 15 minutes daily will result in whiter teeth, pinker gums and the elimination of bad oral bacteria. The recent term 'oil pulling' is a reference to the swilling technique involved, which is to actually 'pull' the oil through the teeth in order to produce the best results.
Sesame oil was recommended in the ancient Ayurvedic literature, but recent studies claim that any type of oil, including flaxseed, olive and vegetable oil, can be used.
Today, the method focuses on coconut oil as the best oil type to use to maintain good dental health at home, due to its antimicrobial fatty acids. Coconut oil in particular purports to thoroughly cleanse the mouth, as well as other health benefits including an increase of physical energy, a complete body detox, the reduction of headaches and the eradication of bad breath.
Some advocates of the re-emerging trend have gone so far as to suggest that swilling the oil daily can help prevent Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, but other specialists say there is barely any evidence to support this.
Indeed, many dental professionals believe that there is insignificant evidence for the benefits of oil pulling, and it has also been suggested that oil pulling can potentially be a cause of lipoid pneumonia due to accidental oil inhalation!
The Canadian Dental Association has stated that "We sense oil pulling won't do any harm, (but) we're not convinced there are any particular benefits to it."
Due to the re-emergence of oil pulling in Europe, coconut oil sachets with added flavours are now widely marketed online as a health product, and at a substantial financial cost compared to the lower priced and larger containers of coconut oil now available in most supermarkets.
This therefore raises the question over whether oil pulling can really offer any specific benefits, or is just another clever marketing ploy aimed at playing on our desire for a medical cure-all?