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Popularity Increases In Ancient Oral Health Practice

We’ve all heard of yoga and meditation, two ancient eastern holistic healing practices. But there’s another ancient holistic medicinal text that’s catching on in the U.S., in part, because of its oral health benefits. Oil pulling is a technique of the ancient Ayurveda texts, considered to be the oldest health care system in the world, dating back to 800 B.C. “It has very comprehensive, natural procedures to take care of different parts of [a] human being," said Hari Sharma, M.D. Sharma, who has worked at Ohio State University for nearly 50 years, specializes in Ayurveda practice at the Integrative Medicine Clinic on Kenny Road. He said there are two types of oil pulling techniques, swishing it or holding it in the mouth. Sharma said any mouth bacteria binds with the oil and is removed when it is spit out. “So when you’re doing swishing all the bacteria comes out," he said. "So it’s very good for gingivitis, plaque and bad breath. Sharma stresses oil pulling does not replace brushing and flossing. It’s a mouthwash. “There’s a lot of research done on this as effective as the mouthwash most commonly used chlorhexidine," Sharma said. The American Dental Association does not agree. In an email, the ADA wrote it doesn’t recommend oil pulling even as supplement to regular brushing and flossing. OSU College of Dentistry professor Angelo Mariotti said some of the oil pulling studies are flawed. While Mariotti said the practice is not necessarily harmful, he said there’s a lack of evidence it helps. “If you’re coming in to see me, I’d rather you spend that time doing things that are going to improve your health," Mariotti said. "Not things that aren’t going to affect you much at all.” And Mariotti raised a couple of concerns. “People can swallow this, and they can get upset tummies. If you spit it, some of these oils, in the sink, it will clog your sink," Mariotti said. "I know that some of that is silly, but you want people to do things that’s going to be productive for them.” Nevertheless, people are putting oils in their mouths and swishing away. Dr. Sharma said several types of oils can be used for the Ayurvedic technique such as coconut and safflower oils, but he recommends sesame oil. “Sesame oil is a very powerful antioxidant. It’s just not widely known.” Sharma notes people should make sure they’re not allergic to the oil. Some natural health blogs and articles claim the practice can reduce headaches, sinus problems and other ailments. Sharma chuckled when I asked him if those assertions are true. “I think the main benefit is for the bad breath, gingivitis, plaque formation; and when you’re talking to other people they won’t get away from you,” he laughed. “As far as headache and other things I think that is far-fetched. For that there are other techniques.” Ellen Kauffman has followed Ayurvedic medical texts, including oil pulling, for 20 years. While it may keep her breath fresh, Kauffman agrees it would be difficult to say it plays a role in her overall health. “I do a lot of different Ayurvedic modalities that all contribute to my health overall, so it would be hard to identify which ones of those oil pulling is responsible for, but I know it helps with my mouth and my dental hygiene.” As for me, my teeth still feel slick and clean.