Oil Pulling | What Is It?

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
February 19, 2019

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If you’re the type of person who is all about doing things naturally, you have likely come across something known as oil pulling.

What is oil pulling, and how can it affect your dental health? Should you give it a try, or are you better off sticking with basic brushing and flossing to maintain clean, strong teeth and gums?

Oil Pulling: The Claims and How to Do It

Oil pulling isn’t a new technique; it actually dates back thousands of years and is part of Ayurvedic medicine. Those who support the method claim that it can be used to cleanse the mouth and whiten teeth. And the best part is that you can do it all at home, on your own time.

All you have to do is take a tablespoon of oil, such as sunflower oil, olive oil, sesame oil, or coconut oil, and swish it around in your mouth for up to 20 minutes. When you’re done, spit the oil out, making sure to not swallow any.

Does It Really Work?

Information regarding the effectiveness of oil pulling is mixed.

According to WebMD,1 there are some studies showing that oil pulling can help provide protection against plaque and gingivitis, as well as bad breath. Some experts recommend sticking with coconut oil if you are going to give oil pulling a try, as it contains antimicrobial lauric acid, and a study showed that it might even help reduce the risk of tooth decay. However, if you aren’t a fan of coconut oil for any reason, you can still use sunflower oil or sesame oil to get the antibacterial benefits that they provide.

Also, according to CNN,2 a couple of studies found that oil pulling using sesame oil helped reduce gingivitis, plaque, and Streptococcus mutans, which is a bacterium that is associated with tooth decay. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

There is skepticism, however, surrounding the effects of oil pulling. According to Nature Research,3 for example, a lot of the studies on oil pulling aren’t all that reliable, thanks to improper design. Longer studies and larger trials are necessary to determine if oil pulling really works.

Even the American Dental Association4 (ADA) isn’t convinced, stating that there isn’t enough reliable evidence to prove that swishing oil around in your mouth can help brighten your smile or make your teeth and gums stronger. When it comes to dental hygiene practices, the ADA doesn’t recommend this technique.  

Bottom line: the jury’s still out on whether or not oil pulling is worth your time.

Want to Try It? Here Are Some Tips for Beginners

Let’s say that you want to try oil pulling for the first time. After all, what harm could it do, right? Well, it’s totally fine to give it a go, but just be sure to brush and floss your teeth as you normally would (brush twice a day and floss at least once a day). Adding oil pulling to your oral hygiene routine as a little something extra that you’re doing to maintain your health is okay. Just don’t go substituting brushing and flossing with oil pulling—that would not be wise. And be sure to continue seeing your dentist for those all-important checkups and cleanings!

Also, it can be really tough to swish oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes, so you can start by swishing for just one minute, or perhaps even five minutes. You can work your way up to 10 or 20 minutes gradually. And, when swishing the oil in your mouth, be gentle, making sure the oil is moving in between your teeth and along your gums. You don’t want your jaw to start hurting. Ouch!

Overall, oil pulling is pretty easy, and just about anyone can do it. Plus, there is some evidence that shows it may benefit oral health. But even though it might be a good way to enhance your oral care strategy, you shouldn’t think of it as a miracle cure. Nothing beats a consistent brushing and flossing routine, along with regular trips to the dentist, when it comes to keeping your smile bright.  


  1. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oil-pulling
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2014/08/06/health/oil-pulling/
  3. https://idp.nature.com/authorize?response_type=cookie&client_id=grover&redirect_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nature.com%2Farticles%2Fsj.bdj.2018.281
  4. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oil-pulling
  5. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/adult-oral-care/coconut-oil-pulling-dangers

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