Whatever Happened to Oil Pulling?

Dentist and PatientPopularity never necessitates logic. Practicality and an empirical basis are nothing more than neat additions for whatever society chooses as its next trend. Just a few years ago, a craze that swept the health community once again had people declaring it as ‘the next big thing’ in dental care.

It is now 2016 and they (of course) were wrong. Oil pulling is now the nth health trend to collapse on its own popularity.

Throwing Against a Wall

Despite the majority of Internet trends sprouting from the minds of bored-but-connected fellows, the trend of substituting oil for mouthwash is not one of them. Oil pulling dates back to around 300 BCE, revived from the ancient Indian text Charaka Samhita. To their credit, oral health trendsetters did their historical reading. Unfortunately, they failed to do some modern fact-checking.

Cosmetic dentists from Harley Street say that even though swishing vegetable oil inside one’s mouth is not damaging, no evidence shows that it is helpful either. They explain that the trend died down because coconut and sesame oil (the most popular choices) were too ineffectual to convince people to include it in their dental care regimen. Also, they mention that since mouthwash already exists as the standard liquid oral cleanser, the redundancy of 10- to 20-minute oil pulling sessions became immediately apparent.

Seeing What Sticks

The term ‘oil pulling’ is peculiar in and of itself. It is catchy and intriguing — hallmarks of Internet virality. Some say that it relates to the motion of oil as it swishes through teeth and ‘pulls’ impurities out. Dentists say that it does not matter. Besides posing the risk of a person swallowing a worrying amount of oil, the practice itself is no more advantageous than using water, and not nearly as beneficial as using mouthwash.

 ‘We don’t necessarily need to be swishing things around in our mouth’, says Robert J. Collins, a clinical professor at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Dental Medicine. He cites the lack of evidence supporting oil’s purported ‘pulling’ property, as oral bacteria is not soluble in oil to begin with. ‘Even if it was, it doesn’t mean that it would disrupt the plaque. We’re learning more every year how sophisticated those colonies are’, he says.

Your toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash remain the only viable tools for personal dental care. There have been and will be trends more intriguing, more popular and more outlandish than oil pulling, but it is exactly these attributes that make them too slippery to stay.