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Oil hygiene

Sir, I read the letter to the editor on oil therapy (BDJ 2009; 207: 193) and I would like to add some more information. Oil pulling or oil swishing is an old Ayurvedic method which was popularised by Dr F. Karach in the 1990s in Russia. In this therapy sunflower, sesame or another cold pressed refined oil is preferred because commercial oils are extracted with strong petroleum based solvents and heated to 450°F. Such heat changes the excellent monounsaturated (oleic acid) fats to trans fats which are harmful to the body but there are no molecules of solvent and trans fatty acids present in cold pressed sesame oil.

Sesame (Sesamum indicum L., Pedaliaceae) is a very old cultivated crop thought to have originated in Africa and the oil contains three lignans - sesamin, sesamolin and sesaminol - that increase both the hepatic mitochondrial and the peroxisomal fatty acid oxidation rate. Sesame seed consumption appears to increase plasma gamma-tocopherol and vitamin E activity which is believed to prevent cancer and heart disease.1 Sesamin inhibits the absorption of cholesterol as well as its production in the liver, reduces lipogenesis and exhibits an anti-hypertensive action.

Oil pulling therapy is found to be very effective even in maintaining oral health for various reasons. Sesame oil is a vegetable fat and when it is acted upon by the salivary alkali, like bicarbonates, the soap making process (saponification) is initiated. Soaps are good cleansing agents because they are effective emulsifying agents. Emulsification is the process by which insoluble fats like sesame oil can be broken down into minute droplets and dispersed in water enhancing the surface area of oil and thereby increasing its cleansing action. The viscosity of oil also helps in the prevention of bacterial adhesion and co-aggregation.2 Sesame oil is found to have antibacterial activity against S. mutans and Lactobacilli3 and antifungal action due to the presence of Chlorosesamone obtained from the roots of sesame.4 Sesame oil contains high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids which reduce free radical injury to the oral tissues.5 Therefore it could be useful for maintaining oral hygiene. Sesame oil has other advantages as it causes no staining, has no lingering aftertaste, and causes no allergic reactions.


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Parolia, A. Oil hygiene. Br Dent J 207, 408 (2009).

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