This post is part of the 100 Days Project
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique for oral hygiene which is doing the rounds on social media. It involves putting a tablespoon of oil in your mouth and pulling it around and between your teeth for 20 minutes before spitting it out and rinsing with hot salt water. The practice has been touted on as the cure to everything from bad breath to eczema to cancer and adherents also claim it whitens teeth.
I first heard about oil pulling when I was in Las Vegas, as the guide on my tour of the Grand Canyon was a big fan. He didn't mention anything to do with cancer, just oral health benefits, and I thought I'd try it once to see if it cleared out more than the average amount of gunk. It didn't - at least not on the first try. I was still able to floss out all kinds of things.
So - having had the experience I did a bit more reading and - surprise - oil-pulling has been debunked by pundits who prefer science to inform their choices. The downside includes slightly increased risk of lipoid pneumonia (which can result from aspirated oil), with unproven development of plaque that's harder to clean. A slight reduction in oral bacteria is apparently true, but is slightly less effective than chlorhexidine mouthwash.
In my personal experience of oral health, the best thing you can do for your teeth is to cut out sugar and complex carbohydrates. When I did this I had so little plaque that my dentist commented on it. But this information is purely anecdotal and I'm telling you by way of the internet, so I urge you to draw your own conclusions.