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Top Dentists: Oil Pulling Won’t Whiten Your Teeth, But Here’s Why You’ll Want to Try It Anyway

Everything to know about the latest TikTok sensation, plus the flavor add-in that makes it easier

There’s no confidence boost quite like having a flawless, megawatt smile. Yet the older we get, the harder (and more expensive!) it becomes to maintain those pearly whites. Between pricey whitening treatments and the increase in dental care that comes with aging, it can just all begin to feel like too much. So when oil pulling began trending online as an inexpensive way to whiten teeth and promote oral health, we decided to investigate. Not sure what oil pulling benefits are, or whether it’s right for you? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this viral health hack.

What is oil pulling?

Simply put, oil pulling is the practice of using coconut oil or another food oil as mouthwash – i.e., swishing it around in your mouth for a designated amount of time before spitting it out. It might sound bizarre, but the practice is hugely popular right now, and videos discussing oil pulling have amassed over 1.3 billion views on TikTok alone.

But just because oil pulling is currently trendy on the internet doesn’t mean it’s a new concept. According to the International Journal of Health Sciences, the practice dates back nearly 5,000 years – making it just about as old as the pyramids in Egypt.

“Oil pulling is an ancient practice,” says Raj Dasgupta, MD, a board-certified professor at the University of Southern California and Chief Medical Advisor for Sleep Advisor. “It involves swishing oil in your mouth, often coconut or sesame oil.”

Proponents of oil pulling claim that 15 to 20 minutes of swishing oil around in your mouth each day can help eliminate bad breath, whiten teeth, reduce plaque and more. That’s a pretty impressive resume for plain old oil, so we reached out to dentists and doctors to find out whether these claims are backed up by science – or if they’re too good to be true.

To see oil pulling in action, watch the video below:


I tried oil pulling and here are the results & benefits… 😳 #oilpulling #naturalremedy #oilpullingbenefits #healthyliving #oralhealth

♬ original sound – Jordan Theodore

What are the benefits of oil pulling?

Swishing oil around your mouth for 20 minutes might not sound very appealing, but it turns out it just may be worth the effort. Although research around the practice is fairly new, studies have linked oil pulling to a number of oral hygiene benefits.

“Oil pulling has been linked to potential benefits such as reducing bad breath, improving gum health and even aiding digestion,” says Joyce Kahng, DDS, at Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio and former professor at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at University of Southern California.

oil pulling benefits: Unrecognizable female is checking smell of breath. Halitosis concept

One possible reason for this is because the most commonly used oil, extra virgin coconut oil, has natural antimicrobial properties. Fewer bacteria in your mouth means better breath and a decreased risk of certain diseases, such as gingivitis. Coconut oil may also reduce gum inflammation and the buildup of plaque, though more research needs to be done to confirm this.

Although coconut oil is the most common, sesame oil, olive oil and grapeseed oil are also good options. Rinsing your mouth with oil every morning is not for the faint of heart, so it’s more important that you choose whichever oil tastes the best to you. Like any health practice, the best oil pulling routine is the one that you can stick with.

As Dr. Kahng put it, “Doing it regularly is more important than the specific kind of oil you use.”

Will oil pulling whiten my teeth?

Oil pulling may have many potential health benefits, but there’s one claim it doesn’t quite live up to. As far as teeth whitening goes, “Research supporting these claims needs to be more conclusive,” says Dr. Dasgupta.

And according to a 2018 literature review, no studies have been able to confirm a link between oil pulling and a whiter smile. So maybe think twice before you toss out your white strips.

What to know before you try oil pulling

As far as potential health concerns go, oil pulling is pretty low-risk. “Swishing oil is usually safe. If you swallow the oil, it may upset your stomach,” says Dr. Dasgupta, adding that people with sensitivities or allergies to specific oils may experience digestive issues or allergic reactions.

Dr. Kahng seconds this. “Oil pulling is safe for most people, but some may experience nausea or vomiting if they accidentally swallow the oil. Always use high-quality oil and consult your dentist before making this a regular part of your routine.”

It turns out that the biggest risk of oil pulling is that practitioners will use it to replace research-backed dental hygiene practices, such as flossing and using mouthwash.

“Oil pulling is a great adjunct to traditional oral health care, but it should never take the place of traditional dentistry,” says Elizabeth Himel, DDS, at Aspen Dental in Camden, South Carolina. Oil pulling cannot reverse cavities or fix serious dental concerns, such as a tooth abscess.

In other words: If you want to add oil pulling to your daily wellness routine, go right ahead. Just don’t cut out the flossing and regular brushing in the meantime.

Oil pulling: the easy how-to

Experts advise oil pulling for about 20 minutes daily. To do: Put 2 tsp. of your preferred oil in your mouth, then swish and swirl, repeatedly sucking and “pulling” the oil between your teeth. (If you have trouble keeping the oil in your mouth, you can spit it out, then resume using new oil.) Some women say that they oil pull as they shower and dress for the day — or when time is tight in the morning, they wait until the busy day is over and do it as they get ready for bed.

Tip: To improve taste and enhance detox, holistic health specialist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, advocates adding a drop of food-grade essential oil to the mix. “Peppermint, spearmint and clove oils are great choices since all have study-backed antimicrobial qualities that fight bacteria.”

Spitting “pulled” oil into the sink can block up pipes and drains, so experts advise spitting it into a cup or glass that you can empty into the trash. Alternatively, you can use a small zip-top plastic bag, then seal and drop into your bathroom wastebasket. Once you spit the oil out, rinse your mouth with warm water or brush your teeth as usual.

Oil pulling: Is it right for you?

In a world full of increasingly expensive and toxic products, it’s refreshing to discover that the simple wisdom of ancient practices such as oil pulling holds up. Oil pulling might feel bizarre (and possibly gross) at first, but when used in tandem with regular flossing, brushing and dentist appointments, it can be a surprisingly effective way to protect the health of your teeth and gums.

So don’t be afraid to try it – oil pulling may be just what you need to achieve the smile of your dreams.

For more on dental health, click through the links below!

Dentist-Recommended Tips to Get Rid of Garlic Breath — and the Pre-Meal Snack That Prevents the Problem

Dentists Say *This* GI Bother Is a Sneaky Cause of Bad Breath — Plus How To Fix It

Your Toothbrush Is Teeming With Bacteria: Dentists Share How to Clean It

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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