What Is an Oil Mouthwash?

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  • Written By: Marlene de Wilde
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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An oil mouthwash is a mouthwash made with an oil such as sunflower oil, tea tree oil or sesame oil. A spoonful of the oil is swished around the mouth and through the teeth for a recommended 10 to 15 minutes and then spat out. It is said to be beneficial for keeping teeth and gums healthy.

The use of an oil mouthwash is also known as oil pulling and the technique comes from the traditional alternative Indian healing, Ayurveda. According to Ayurveda, a mouthwash of cold pressed, organic oil detoxes the upper part of the digestive system as well as keeping gums healthy and teeth white and clean. Sesame seed oil and sunflower oil are recommended as they are both rich in antioxidants, but other vegetable oils such as tea tree oil have been proposed also.


Oil pulling should be done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. One soup spoon of oil is poured into the mouth and then, just like a normal mouthwash, swished around the mouth and pulled through the teeth. Unlike a normal mouthwash, however, the oil should be worked around the mouth for about 15 to 20 minutes after which time the oil will have become thin and white. It should always be spat out and never swallowed as the mixture of oil and saliva has the bacteria it has absorbed from the mouth. Once the oil has been spat out, the mouth should be rinsed with warm water.

According to oil mouthwash proponents, the teeth are whiter and the gums pinker and healthier. Furthermore, according to Ayurveda, because different areas of the tongue are connected to different areas of the body like the kidneys, lungs, heart, colon and spine, oil pulling stimulates the key meridians and benefits the entire system. Conditions such as arthritis, skin diseases and menstrual problems can be cured through oil pulling.

Although oil mouthwash has been used in countries like India for thousands of years, the practice is still new to the Western world. Some people have become disillusioned with conventional mouthwashes and toothpastes because of ingredients such as alcohol, sweeteners, parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate. Some studies have concluded that long-term use of alcohol-containing mouthwash increase the likelihood of oral cancer. Sodium lauryl sulfate, an effective foaming agent used widely in toothpastes, is a well-known skin irritant and is suspected as a cancer-causing agent.


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