Oil pulling has been in the news and all over social media as of late. The practice of using oil to potentially help improve oral health conditions involves holding oil in your mouth to clean your teeth and gums and provide other health benefits, such as improve bad breath and clear up your skin.
Though oil pulling only recently came to note in American pop culture, it is an ancient folk remedy from India and southern Asian cultures. To clean the mouth, you’re supposed to hold oil (most oil pullers recommend coconut, sesame, or olive oil) in your mouth anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and constantly swish the oil around.
So does it work?
Scientific or peer-reviewed literature does not currently exist to back up the claims that oil pulling is a proven method to improve oral health. However, it has also not been proven as a harmful practice, as long as you do so with caution and do not swallow the oil. There are potential adverse affects if you swallow or aspirate (breath in) the oil, including upset stomach, diarrhea, and lipoid pneumonia (caused from aspiration)1.
Due to the current lack of evidence to support that oil pulling has any oral health benefits, if you do choose to do so, we recommend that you do not replace your current oral health routine with oil pulling. Luckily, there are time-tested behaviors that we know work to help improve oral health that you can use in conjunction with oil pulling:
• Brush your teeth twice a day
• Floss between teeth once a day
• Visit your dentist at least once a year
1 Kim JY, Jung JW, Choi JC, et al. Recurrent lipoid pneumonia associated with oil pulling. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2014 Feb;18(2):251-2