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  • Writer's pictureChris Salierno, DDS

Does oil pulling work?

Oil pulling is an oral health homecare routine with ancient origins that has found renewed interest over the past several years. The technique involves swishing certain types of vegetable or nut oil to reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth. Does it work? Yes, but there's more to the story.

There are studies (here's one example) that show that oil pulling can be effective at reducing bacteria in the mouth. That's good, but is oil pulling helping the fight against tooth decay and gum disease? That answer is a bit less certain. There are promising studies that have suggested that oil pulling will help reduce gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), such as this study here and this study here. However I have yet to see a study that shows oil pulling can prevent tooth decay or treat active cavities.

So if you're looking for a natural home remedy to help fight mild gingivitis, there is evidence to support oil pulling at home. If you're going to try oil pulling, please keep in mind the following:

(1) You should still brush your teeth with toothpaste and you should still floss (or use an irrigation device like a WaterPik). The studies that measure the effectiveness of oil pulling still have their test subjects do their normal oral care procedures and they are not ONLY oil pulling.

(2) Coconut oil is the most promising choice. The consensus from studies such as this one show that coconut oil has a better effect than other oils, such as sesame seed oil and olive oil. This may be due to coconut oil's high concentrations of lauric acid.

(3) You probably need oil pull for several minutes. Many sources online reference pulling for up to 20 minutes. The longer you swish, the greater the chance your mouth muscles will get tired, so don't strain yourself!

(4) Make sure you spit! Swallowing a mouthful of oil and bacteria is not just gross... it could irritate your stomach or intestinal system.


Disclaimer: ToothQuest is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as dental, medical, or legal advice.  Please consult with your dentist or other appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions that would affect your health.

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