Oil-pulling for Oral Health

sesame oil



Oil Pulling, or more specifically, oil swilling has received a lot of attention in the West in recent years. It is part of the cleansing therapies of Ayurveda and is a simple home practice. Some of its great health benefits are:


Healthy teeth and gums

Increased sense of smell and taste

Increased health of sinuses

Improved respiratory system

Relaxed jaw and facial muscles

Supports speech and vocal chords

Detoxification of the body

Calmer nervous system

Removal of bad breath

Increased digestive strength

Improved organ and tissue strength

Sense of nourishment and peace.


Ayurveda understands that teeth are the by-product of bone tissue, and the health of the teeth can tell us of the health of the bones. The teeth, other than the enamel coating, are living tissue rather than inert and lifeless as is commonly assumed. They can become nutrient deficient, or injured and can also heal. Even after cavities have formed, they can remineralise, decay can be halted and a strong outer-tooth surface be re-established.


The teeth are an important site of vata dosha. As such, they respond well to gentle, grounding and nourishing care. Oil swilling and massage are the perfect example and also help increase the overall health of the digestive system, body and mind. According to the principle of healing with opposites we see that vata is dry, light, cold, rough and oil is heavy, grounding. Sesame oil in particular has the quality of being warming compared to coconut which is lighter and more refreshing. Sesame oil is high in calcium and also has a small molecular structure helping penetrate the tissues more easily. If the oil is warmed this is even easier. Coconut is good for monitoring microbial activity in the mouth and for inflammatory conditions such as gingivitis.


The digestive system starts in the mouth with digestive enzymes beginning the process. According to Ayurveda, health is rooted in the strength of our digestion – how we digest food as well as how we digest experiences and life. Detoxification in Ayurveda also comes through nourishment. If the cell is nourished, toxicity will leave. Just like us. At the same time, oil attracts the cell-membranes of microbes, and as they adhere to the oil they detach from the teeth and gums, helping with the removal of plaque, bacteria and odor.


Looking after our mouth in this way and our teeth goes a long way in living well.



teeth diagram


The instructions are to:


(After scraping tongue and brushing teeth)

Place a tablespoon or two of warm sesame oil in the mouth,

Swish for a few minutes,

Spit out,

Massage the gums with one finger for a few minutes.


There is a little confusion at the moment as to how long to practice oil-swilling and what with. One can swish and gargle for 20 mins and then rinse out the mouth. This is usually done for more serious disorders with amazing results. Swilling for a prolonged period of time is known in Ayurveda as kavala and means rinsing of the mouth or gargling and implies a chewing or swishing movement. Oil-swilling as a daily regimen is known as gandusha in which oil is both held in the mouth and swished for a few minutes with wonderful results. Kavala is quick-acting while Gandusha has a slow, sustained action. They are of four types:


Snehana – lubricating

For vata disorders, dry mouth, dry throat, hoarse voice, receding gums, dry gums, oral cavity and sensitivity to cold food and air.

Use lukewarm sesame oil, coconut oil, ghee, heated milk or warm soups with oil.


Shamana – palliating

For pitta disorders, inflammatory conditions, gingivitis, bleeding gums, oral thrush, ulcers and canker sores.

Use tea from bitter, sweet and astringent herbs such as triphala, turmeric or licorice.


Shodhana – cleansing

For kapha disorders, excessive tartar, thick saliva, excessive thick mucus.

Use hot tea from astringent and cleansing herbs such as triphala, turmeric or honey.


Ropana – healing

For healing oral infections and inflammation.

Use neem, turmeric or amalaki tea.

Two or three drops of grapefruit seed extract in a glass of water gargled is anti-viral and antibacterial and will treat any oral infection.

For sore throats, pharyngitis, laryngitis, gargling with a glass of warm water and a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt will relieve infections.



Nourishing and cleaning the mouth in this way goes along way to improving our health and longevity. It is good for our teeth, gums and mouth as well as having a great systemic influence on the rest of our bodymind system.



cheesy grin