Prioritizing oral health ensures that our teeth and gums remain as intact as possible, rendering dental visits less scary, less painful, and minimally invasive while simultaneously supporting robust overall health and well-being.
Ayurvedic oral hygiene practices also enhance the sense of taste, support detoxification, encourage optimal digestive strength, and bolster immunity.
This resource is meant to dispel any fear or shame that you may have about the condition of your gums, mouth, or teeth. It also aims to empower you with practical tools to support your health—both in the mouth and throughout the body.
The mouth is the first step in the digestive process, so a healthy mouth, teeth, and gums are essential to healthy digestion and detoxification.
An Important Site of Vata
The teeth are considered a site of Vata, which is a rather delicate dosha. Vata does best when it receives deep nourishment and tender, gentle care. The same is true of the teeth and gums, which should be cared for gently, carefully, and generally respond well to grounding and nourishing inputs.
This is one of the reasons that Ayurvedic oral hygiene practices are so supportive of our oral health; they are gentle, nourishing, and on the whole, deeply supportive of Vata.
On the other hand, aggressive oral healthcare and hygiene practices are bound to be Vata-aggravating, and over time will negatively impact the teeth and gums.
Maybe you’ve heard of an Ayurvedic oil pulling treatment, but you’re not sure what it means or how oil pulling works. Or perhaps you’re wondering whether there is any actual benefit to putting oil in your mouth. If so, you’ve come to the right place to learn about oil pulling and the scientific studies that back much of its effectiveness.
Oil pulling is referred to in Ayurvedic texts as kavala or gundusha. It claims such health benefits as improving oral flora, preventing tooth decay, alleviating bad breath, and strengthening the tissue of teeth and gums.
In addition to brushing your teeth, flossing, and scraping your tongue, oil pulling with sesame oil, coconut oil, or any specially formulated oil completes safe oral hygiene.
Practicing Two Types of Oil Pulling
Gandusha: the mouth is filled with liquid, and it is held for 5-15 minutes.
Kavala Graha: A smaller amount of liquid, about 1 tbsp, is swished around in the mouth and through the teeth for 5-15 minutes, then spit out once the oil becomes frothy, thin and whitish.
After oil pulling, the mouth can be rinsed with warm water three times or for a total of 2 minutes.
Remember, the cells are covered with a fatty membrane, so they naturally adhere to each other when they contact oil. When you spit out the oil after 5 to 15 minutes, the microorganisms go with it! It is essential to rinse three times with warm water. Let’s try!
How to Do Oil Pulling
Here are a few simple instructions for how to do oil pulling. Oil pulling is best incorporated in the morning, upon rising, and on an empty stomach, as it helps to stimulate the appetite and enhance the sense of taste.
Some suggest swishing before brushing, while others recommend brushing before swishing. Dr. Mark Burhenne, from Ask the Dentist, says, “If you brush after you pull, you’ll get rid of the good bacteria you just worked to support.” With this in mind, brushing then swishing may be best.
Steps for Oil Pulling (Kavala Graha)
- The best time to do oil pulling is first thing in the morning, after brushing your teeth.
- Use 1 tbsp of chosen oil. You can warm this slightly to a lukewarm temperature.
- Place the oil in your mouth and swish it around through your teeth and entire mouth for 5-15 minutes. Begin with five minutes and work your way up.
- Spit the oil out into a receptacle of choice and dispose of it. For example, spit out the oil in the trash or toilet, rather than down the drain, to avoid clogging the drain. Do not swallow the oil.
- Rinse your mouth three times or for a total of 2 minutes with warm water as the oil and toxins residue will tend to stick to the inside of your mouth.
- Enjoy that fresh, clean feeling!
How Does Oil Pulling Work?
Both Western medicine and Ayurveda use the tongue as an essential diagnostic tool, indicating that a healthy mouth and a healthy tongue are interrelated to the entire body’s health. Thus, supporting our oral hygiene is a benefit for our general health.
Our mouths are host to over 600 different species of bacteria, which populate the teeth, tongue, soft tissue of the cheeks and palates, and our tonsils. The oral cavity further adjoins the esophagus, nasal passages, sinuses, and intricate ear cavities. You can see why bacteria in the mouth is a big deal!
Many of these bacteria are necessary for a healthy oral microbiome. Many of them, such as Streptococcus mutans, can cause problems if left unchecked—tooth decay, bad breath, gingivitis, and strep throat, to name a few.
Bacteria are single-celled organisms enclosed by a lipid membrane. These bacteria are attracted to the lipid structure of the oil, pulled from the oral tissue by adhering to the fat molecules of the oil, then flushed away through the act of oil pulling and spitting out the oil. Voila!
Oil pulling is a time-tested method for improving oral hygiene that is endorsed not only by Ayurvedic practitioners but Western doctors, scientists, and dentists too.
Benefits of oil pulling
- Improves the senses: hearing, vision, smell, and taste
- Promotes mental clarity and improves memory
- Good for the following conditions: bad breath, dry skin, chronic exhaustion, loss of appetite, fatigue in the morning, and chronic sore throat
- Oil pulling purifies the entire system because each area of the tongue correlates to an organ in the body.
- Toxins from the blood are released through the tongue and are absorbed by the oil.
- According to the Charak Samhita, Kaval and Gandusha support healing about 30 systemic diseases ranging from headaches and migraines to diabetes and asthma. It also helps prevent tooth decay, gum disease, removes plaque, and relieves bad breath, bleeding gums, chronic dry throat, and cracked and lips. Overall, it strengthens teeth, gums, and jaw muscles.
There are numerous causes for bad breath or halitosis. One of these causes is the byproduct of bacteria. There are many places for bacteria to hide in our oral cavity! Tongue scraping is also said to eliminate much of these bacteria and the source for the malodor.
In one placebo-controlled study, the efficacy of oil pulling was compared to that of chlorhexidine, a common antimicrobial mouthwash, to reduce halitosis. When compared to those of the placebo, results of the sesame oil and chlorhexidine showed similar scores in the reduction of bacteria and volatile sulphur compounds.
Healthy Teeth and Gums
To reiterate, a healthy oral microbiome plays a leading role in healthy teeth and gums.
One of the bacteria found in the oral cavity, Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) is also one of the main contributors to tooth decay. In another controlled study, a sesame oil pulling group was again compared with a chlorhexidine group to evaluate the presence of S. mutans count after ten minutes of swishing for two weeks.
There was a significant reduction in the S. mutans count after 1 and 2 weeks of oil pulling, corresponding to the results of the chlorhexidine group.
While this is one area where clinical studies are limited, there is anecdotal evidence that oil pulling benefits sinus health. In addition, given the relationship to the oral cavity, it stands to reason that maintaining healthy bacteria in the mouth would influence surrounding tissues.
Oil pulling is also said to increase circulation of the oral tissues, perhaps bringing nutrients and lymph to the sinus tissue as well.
There is more and more awareness of the connection between oral health and our general well-being. Furthermore, severe health conditions may be linked to the bacteria in our mouths, such as endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and even complications with pregnancy and birth.
Both oil pulling and tongue scraping are easy and excellent ways to assist with the body’s detoxification process.
What Is the Best Oil for Oil Pulling?
Traditionally, oil pulling was done with sesame oil, known as “The King of Oils” due to its rich nutrient value and versatility.
Oil pulling with coconut oil has also gained popularity because of the antimicrobial benefits of its lauric acid content.10
Arimedadi Oil ( special ayurvedic preparation.)
This tri-doshic oil is commonly used in Ayurveda for oil pulling. It can be warmed slightly for Vata people.
Arimedadi with milk can be used to treat pitta conditions, such as mouth ulcers.
Jatyadi Ghritam, Panchagavya Ghritam, and Triphala Ghritam support the treatment of mouth ulcers and improve the sense of taste.
his oil is used for wound healing.
Panchagavya oil also works wonders for the mind.
It removes bacteria from the mouth and is excellent for toothaches, inflammation, bad breath and gum disease.
Turmeric and Coconut oil:
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, coupled with coconut oil’s antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, make this an excellent combination for oral health and healing. In addition, it helps to prevent plaque formation and gingivitis that can lead to gum disease.
A few drops of essential oil on oil can make an effective oil pulling.
Add 1-2 drops of essential oil to 1 tbsp of carrier oil, like sesame or coconut. Here are a few examples of essential oils you can use.
Eucalyptus: is an anti-inflammatory germicide that helps soothe receding gums and helps stimulate the growth of new gum tissue.
Peppermint: has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help prevent disease-causing bacteria from infected susceptible gums.
Lemon: can help keep the gums healthy and kill bacteria in the mouth.
Clove: is both antibacterial and anti- inflammatory to fight germs.
Spearmint: is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
Other practices for oral health
The act of gargling can be much shorter in duration than oil pulling and has many of the same benefits, including reaching areas of the mouth easily missed during brushing and flossing. Additionally, studies have shown that gargling even with plain water helps soothe the throat and promote respiratory health.
Gargling is often practiced with oil in Ayurveda. Still, it is also commonly practiced separately with a mixture of saltwater, and turmeric. Turmeric Tonic is a bitter and slightly salty herbal mix that can be gargled and taken as a wellness shot to promote throat comfort. It combines the immune-boosting powers of turmeric with pippali, which strengthens the respiratory tract, and ginger and vidanga, which kindle agni (the digestive fire) and burn ama (natural toxins).
Triphala is an ancient Ayurvedic formula consisting of three fruits: amalaki, bibhitaki, and haritaki.
Triphala is tridoshic, so it balances vata, pitta, and kapha. It has a unique ability to nourish and rejuvenate the tissues while simultaneously cleansing and detoxifying the system. These qualities enhance oral health in much the same way that they bolster digestive strength.
Triphala tea (made from Triphala powder) can be taken internally to support the entire digestive tract, but it can also be swished in the oral cavity to help maintain the health of bodhaka kapha.
In fact, one study found that, among healthy adolescent boys, swishing with a decoction of Triphala was as effective as chlorhexidine in maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. Triphala also contains five of the six tastes (all but salty), and exposure to all six tastes is a vital aspect of a balanced diet.
Benefits to Swish with Triphala Tea
- Preserves the proper health and function of bodhaka kapha
- Supports the body’s natural detoxification processes
- Stimulates and enhances the sense of taste
- Gently cleanses and nourishes the tissues of the oral cavity
- Encourages saliva to be thin and liquid rather than thick and dense (which can cause problems)
How to Practice
- Place ½ teaspoon Triphala powder in a glass of freshly boiled water.
- Let it steep for one minute, cool, and then strain the Triphala powder out and swish the tea throughout the mouth.
- When finished, spit out the tea and rinse.
2 Singh, Abhinav, and Bharathi Purohit. “Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health.”
Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. 2011. Accessed April 17,
3 Singh. “Tooth Brushing, Oil Pulling and Tissue Regeneration: A Review of Holistic Approaches to Oral Health.”
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6 Dewhirst, Floyd E., Tuste Chen, Jacques Izard, Bruce J. Paster, Wen-Han Yu Anne C. R. Tanner, Abirami Lakshmanan, and William G. Wade. “The Human Oral Microbiome.” Journal of Bacteriology. October 01, 2010. Accessed April 17, 2019. https://jb.asm.org
10 Sezgin, Y., Memis Ozgul, B., & Alptekin, N. O. (2019). “Efficacy of oil pulling therapy with coconut oil on four-day supragingival plaque growth: A randomized crossover clinical trial.” Complementary therapies in medicine, 47, 102193. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31780023/
11 S;, Naiktari RS; Dharmadhikari C; Gurav AN; Kakade. “Determining the Antibacterial Substantivity of Triphala Mouthwash and Comparing It With 0.2% Chlorhexidine Gluconate After a Single Oral Rinse: A Crossover Clinical Trial.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30631228/
12 SV;, Naiktari RS;Gaonkar P;Gurav AN;Khiste. “A Randomized Clinical Trial to Evaluate and Compare the Efficacy of Triphala Mouthwash with 0.2% Chlorhexidine in Hospitalized Patients with Periodontal Diseases.” Journal of periodontal & implant science. U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 5, 2014. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24921057/
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14 “Volatile Sulfur Compounds as The Cause of Bad Breath: A Review.”
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