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October 30, 2018 2 min read

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling refers to a practice where individuals will place a certain amount of vegetable oil in their mouth and swish it around, for a predetermined amount of time, then spit the oil out. The practice is not new. It dates back thousands of years and seems to have originated in southern Asia and/or India. Coconut oil is typically used as the oil of choice due to the taste difference between it and other, less palatable, oils. The claims of what the oils can, do while in the mouth, range from killing bacteria, whitening teeth, fighting bad breath, healing cavities, and a myriad of other benefits.

What the authorities say

The American Dental Association has yet to endorse oil pulling and came out with the following statement. “Based on the lack of currently available evidence, oil pulling is not recommended as a supplementary oral hygiene practice, and certainly not as a replacement for standard, time-tested oral health behaviors and modalities. To date, scientific studies have not provided the necessary clinical evidence to demonstrate that oil pulling reduces the incidence of dental caries, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being.” It is clear therefore, from the governing body of the dental community that oil pulling has not passed the rigorous tests for approval as a verified dental treatment.

 What the science says

Whether oil pulling has been approved does not cancel out the fact that there are some scientific facts that give its’ use some preemptive credibility. Swishing with fluid before or after brushing can aid in loosening up debris that may be in places where it is too hard to get toothbrush bristles into. So the swishing portion of oil pulling has already been shown to be helpful. Coconut oil, for example, contains Lauric acid. This acid is shown to have antibacterial properties. Therefore, swishing with coconut oil can aid in killing the bacteria that may lead to cavities and/or bad breath.

What oil pulling is not

Simply swishing with oil, of any kind is not a replacement for brushing. Fluids swishing will never remove the amount of plaque and bacteria that bristles can. Oil pulling is also not a replacement for flossing. The tight contact point between teeth must be cleaned out with more force then a fluid can provide. Oil pulling can be a replacement for certain oral rinses. Many oral rinses also use essential oil in their mixtures like Thymol and Menthol. These too have antibacterial properties.


Using oils, in an oil pulling regiment, can aid in killing bacteria. Lower bacterial content in the mouth can lead to a decrease in tooth decay and an increase in fresh breath. Therefore, using oils in conjunction with, but not replacing, the time tested practices brushing and flossing can lead to a much healthier mouth.