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Jumping the gun

Sir, I was surprised to read in the letter from V. Ballal entitled Oil therapy (BDJ 2009; 207: 193) that the literature has reported that swishing sunflower oil around the mouth for 15 minutes a day can 'effectively treat ... meningitis, heart and kidney disorders, women's hormonal disorders, and chronic diseases like cancer, AIDS etc.' However, no references were provided and a cursory search of the literature found only studies examining oil pulling as a means of managing oral bacteria. The claims of effectiveness against a long list of unrelated conditions, as well as the references to toxins, healing 'all organs simultaneously' and an unknown mechanism, are all reminiscent of the language used to promote unproven or disproven alternative remedies.

Oil pulling may or may not prove a useful technique, but for traditional remedies to enter the folds of evidence-based medicine it is important to investigate any real effects they may have without being distracted by illusory effects ascribed to them by their advocates. Without strong evidence that oil pulling has an effect beyond those of placebo and a thorough oral rinse, the suggested research to discover the source of this effect would seem to be jumping the gun.

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Taylor, A. Jumping the gun. Br Dent J 207, 518 (2009).

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