Does Oil Pulling Really Work?

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An ancient Aryuvedic practice is getting a modern-day revival.

Oil pulling, the act of swishing around oil in your mouth, is said to prevent disease, purge toxins, whiten teeth, clear up acne, cure migraines, and treat gum disease—and everywhere you turn, people are jumping on the bandwagon. Many in the healthy living community—including Deepak Chopra—swear by it, though the science behind it is inconclusive at best.

Still, as someone who drinks two cups of coffee a day, I was lured in by the promise of whiter teeth. So for three nights in a row, I brushed, flossed, and set out to spend 20 minutes swishing coconut oil (a popular choice for its anti-microbial properties, though technically any oil will do). I also checked in with a couple of experts to get their take.

"Oil pulling is nothing new," says David Colbert, a New York-based dermatologist. "The Italians do it three times a day. It's part of the Mediterranean diet, and any diet rich in natural healthy oils like olive oil will provide the 'pull.'" Basically, Colbert says, oil pulling is simply a newfangled term for something that a lot of people have done for years, namely making healthy oils a regular part of your diet. 

Although there's plenty of research to suggest that eating certain oils and fats can benefit your health, there's only a handful of published clinical trials on oil pulling. And while at least one found there may be some truth to the claim that it can whiten teeth and prevent gingivitis, further benefits are questionable. "[Oil pulling] should not be used to treat oral disease such as gum disease or tooth decay," dental hygienist Michelle Hurlbutt told The Huffington Post. "It's more of a preventive rinse that could be used adjunctively with your regular mouthcare routine."

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Coconut Oil

There has long been a credible link between oral health and heart disease, but there's no research to suggest that oil pulling specifically can improve your health. [Tweet this fact!] On the other hand, showing your pearly whites some extra TLC will probably lead to improved overall health anyway. So if oil pulling appeals to you and encourages you to spend more time brushing your teeth and taking care of your mouth, you probably will be less likely to pick up strep, ear infections, colds, and other infections, and if you're healthier overall, it stands to reason that you'll be happier and less stressed too. 

As for me, I don't think I see oil pulling in my future (I couldn't make it more than four minutes without gagging each time). I'll probably stick to baking with coconut oil, not using it as mouthwash.

Have you tried oil pulling? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!

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