If you’re on TikTok, you’ve heard about the newest viral trend in dental health—oil pulling. Millions of TikTok creators are posting videos claiming that oil pulling transformed their dental health, but it’s hard to know whether their claims are trustworthy or simply designed to rack up views and put money in their pockets. The line between an honest review and an advertisement has become even blurrier with the addition of TikTok shop, a feature that allows creators to sell products directly from their videos and earn commission.  

In this crazy world where people turn to social media influencers for guidance, it’s important to remember that the only people you should be taking medical advice from is medical professionals. For the case of oil pulling, let’s listen to the dental professionals! In this article we will discuss the history of oil pulling, purpose of oil pulling, and answer the question, “should I be oil pulling?” from a dentist’s perspective. 

History of Oil Pulling 

While many people are just now hearing about oil pulling, it’s actually been around for thousands of years. According to an article published in the International Journal of Health Sciences, “the use of oil pulling can be frequently found in ancient medical texts”. So, where did oil pulling originate? Oil pulling is part of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian medical system. Ayurvedic medical practices such as oil pulling are based on Ayurveda, a natural and holistic approach to physical and mental health that focuses on eliminating impurities and finding balance. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the world’s oldest medical systems, it remains prominent in India, and its influence has spread throughout the world with practices like oil pulling growing in popularity. 

Oil Pulling Basics 

  • How to oil pull: Swish about a tablespoon of oil around in your mouth and then spit it out. 
  • How long to oil pull: 5-20 minutes is the recommended amount of time to oil pull based on historic practices and current research. 
  • How often to oil pull: Recommendations in medical and historical texts vary from 2-3 times per week to 3 times per day. The most common frequency we came across in our research was oil pulling once per day.  
  • What kind of oil to use for oil pulling? Oil pulling should be done using natural, edible oils. The most popular oils for oil pulling include coconut oil, sunflower oil, and sesame seed oil. 
  • What does oil pulling do? The purpose of oil pulling is to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth.  
  • The (Supposed**) Benefits of Oil Pulling:  
  • Prevents tooth decay and cavities 
  • Reduces bad breath 
  • Improves gum health 
  • Whitens teeth 

**Continue reading below for a dentist’s perspective on these claims and find out which benefits are scientifically proven, and which are not. 

Scientific Research on Oil Pulling 

As dental professionals we rely on reputable scientific research when advising our patients. There is still plenty of research to be conducted, but there are several small-scale, reputable studies that investigate the supposed benefits of oil pulling. These studies, along with years of education and experience in the dental field,  

Does oil pulling prevent tooth decay and cavities? 

There is no conclusive evidence that oil pulling prevents tooth decay and cavities. However, oil pulling has been shown to reduce plaque, and plaque is a known cause of cavities and tooth decay. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, concluded that oil pulling is an effective way to control plaque levels. Additionally, a 2020 study published in the European Journal of Dentistry showed a significant reduction in plaque formation after 30 days of oil pulling. 

Does oil pulling reduce bad breath? 

If Halitosis is the cause of your bad breath, oil pulling could help. Halitosis is caused by certain bacteria in the mouth. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences compared the effectiveness of oil pulling with sesame oil vs. rinsing with Chlorhexidine solution (an antiseptic and disinfectant that’s typically used to treat halitosis). Oil pulling with sesame oil was equally as effective as Chlorhexidine in reducing bacteria and pathogens associated with Halitosis. 

Does oil pulling improve gum health? 

There are studies that show oil pulling can improve symptoms of Gingivitis, a common gum disease that causes gums to become inflamed, tender, and red. Plaque build up is the most common cause of Gingivitis, and the study we mentioned earlier showed that oil pulling reduces plaque. An additional study conducted in 2009 found that oil pulling with sesame oil over a 10 day period was equally as effective in improving gingival index (a scale for measuring the severity of Gingivitis) and reducing plaque compared to rinsing with chlorhexidine. 

Does oil pulling whiten teeth? 

There is no conclusive evidence that oil pulling whitens teeth. 

A Dentist’s Opinion on Oil Pulling 

While the scientific research on oil pulling is limited, there are studies that show that oil pulling can be good for your dental health. So, should you try oil pulling? Sure! If you want to! Oil pulling has been done for thousands of years and it’s totally safe to give oil pulling a try as long as you use safe ingredients and do not swallow the oil. However, we want to make something clear, oil pulling does not replace brushing your teeth. It’s simply a step that you can add to your oral health routine. 

What kind of oil should I use for oil pulling? 

So, it turns out that there could be some truth to what the TikTok influencers and Amazon sellers are saying about oil pulling. However, there’s no need to purchase some fancy oil pulling solution and you should avoid any solutions that contain ingredients other than natural oil. If you want to try oil pulling, just use regular coconut oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, or sesame oil from the grocery store. These natural oils have been used throughout the history of the practice and in the studies we discussed above! 

The Most Important Part of your Dental Health Routine 

What’s the most important part of a good dental health routine? Brushing? Flossing? Mouthwash? Oil Pulling? All these daily maintenance tasks are important, but there’s one big one that people often forget—going to the dentist! Getting your teeth professionally cleaned achieves a level of clean that you can’t achieve on your own. A teeth cleaning brightens your smile, reduces bad breath, removes tartar and plaque (which can lead to gum disease, cavities, and decay). Plus, visiting the dentist regularly is crucial for the early detection and intervention of gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental issues. 

University General Dentists is a top provider of dental care in the Knoxville, TN area. As a teaching practice affiliated with the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, we are at the forefront of innovation. We are accepting new patients now! Contact us to schedule an appointment today.