How Oil Pulling Works

Oil Pulling Technique

Oil pulling requires only a tablespoon of oil and 20 minutes of your time. The idea is to suck – or "pull" -- the oil between your teeth while you rinse with it. Spit out the leftover oil -- it will turn white and slightly foamy -- into a cup or into the trash (don't spit oil in the sink unless you want to explain to a plumber how your pipes became clogged), rinse and check out those pearly whites.

The oil you choose should be vegetable-based; in particular, sesame oil and coconut oils have both been found to have health benefits, including perhaps oral health benefits, but if olive or sunflower oil (for instance) are more palatable, they won't harm you.

There is no hard-and-fast rule as to exactly how much oil you should use, so try the recommended tablespoonful and decrease the amount if you have trouble with the mouth feel (or your gag reflex). Some adopters of the practice report it may take a few tries before getting used to how the oil feels. Some research also shows that you might see benefits in half the recommended rinse time, pulling for 10 minutes instead of the suggested 20.

Think of oil pulling as you would a mouthwash (except replace the minty-fresh liquid with a tablespoon of oil).

In addition to swishing away any food debris and plaque from the inside of your mouth, the treatment is considered to be antimicrobial, and is believed by some to be a remedy for about 30 systemic conditions. And there might be something to that -- poor oral health and periodontal disease have been linked to poor general health, overall, and may affect your body's ability to fight off infections and inflammatory diseases.

Patients with greater numbers of bad bacteria in their mouths are more likely to be diagnosed with atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, in the neck [source: Griffin]. And it's not just heart health that's affected. Limited studies have found an association between the number of teeth you've lost and your risk of developing certain cancers: Gum disease is associated with a 30 percent greater risk of blood cancers, a 49 percent greater risk of kidney cancer and a 54 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer in adult men [source: American Academy of Periodontology]. Additionally, the risk of esophageal cancer doubles in people who've lost between six and 15 teeth [source: Missih].