Oil pulling: let your teeth shine bright like a diamond!

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Oil pulling is known as a home remedy to maintain a healthy mouth. It became more and more viral on social media lately, and people started adding this ayurvedic practice to their daily oral care routine.

Of course, this newfound popularity of the practice caught multiple dentists’ attention. Scientifically speaking, even though there are only a few studies about the effects of oil pulling, the results seem to indicate that it has some benefits. Sometimes ancient practices pull off really well. So, does oil pulling really pull off?

What is oil pulling?

Oil pulling, also known as oil swishing, is a traditional practice that has been used for centuries. It may help improve your oral hygiene and even bring overall health benefits. Though, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims, and further research is needed. Oil pulling should not replace regular dental care and hygiene practices.

With the traditional oil pulling methods a person swishes a tablespoon of oil around in the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, then spits it out. It is thought to enhance oral hygiene by clearing bacteria and other harmful substances from the mouth. Some of the oils that are commonly used for oil pulling include sesame oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and avocado oil.

What does oil pulling do?

Oil pulling is used for killing the harmful bacteria in the mouth. This remedy helps to reduce gum diseases and defend against plaque build-up. We all know plaque formation can cause a chain of problems to all kinds of dental issues, like cavities. 

Since oil pulling helps with plaque removal or defends against it, you can say it automatically works as a teeth whitener as well by wiping off the stains like windshield blades getting rid of the pigeon poo in the morning.

Last but not least, since bad bacteria causes a chain of problems, you can say getting rid of it is also a chain of oral health benefits. Oil pulling may not cure dental caries but stops it from exceeding and extending deeper.

Does it really work?

Yes, but something is fishy when it comes to scientific evidence about this topic. Although it’s not yet approved as a part of oral care by ADA (American Dental Association), there are few studies that say it has beneficial effects. 

The question “how does oil pulling work?” can be answered by saying that it works by binding to bacteria, toxins, and other harmful substances in the mouth and removing them through the act of swishing. An experiment was done on a number of patients who used oil pulling and the results were positive, so you can say it works like a charm.

However, the practice of oil pulling is not a substitute or replacement for brushing or flossing. It is only an extra complimentary step alongside the cleaning routine. The efficacy of oil pulling won’t be as good if you tend to replace it with brushing with toothpaste and floss.

How long does it take to see results from oil pulling?

Scientific studies suggest that it takes at least about a month to see the results of oil pulling. And this will only happen when you have been doing oil pulling every day for that month. The results you will see are whiter teeth and healthier gums.

How does oil pulling whiten teeth?

Well, basically oil pulling helps to remove stains from the teeth, in that way you can say it does teeth whitening. But not as you imagine like sparking overly white pears. If you have visible stains, you will notice a bit of stain removal when you practice oil pulling, after about 2 weeks.

Of course, it will not take the place of the teeth whitening treatment since oil pulling only make your teeth brighter on a scale of their natural color. 

What are the benefits and drawbacks of oil pulling?

We can safely say that when incorporated into a regular oral hygiene routine with brushing and flossing, oi pulling can have some pretty major benefits:

  • Natural moisturizer: Oil pulling is a solution for dry mouth, it can also help with dry lips and sore throat.
  • White and bright: Oil pulling can make your teeth appear whiter and brighter by removing stains.
  • Oral guardian: Oil pulling can prevent caries, and periodontitis, and can even work as a temporary painkiller if there was toothache.
  • Senses: Oil pulling stimulates the mind, enhances taste buds, and strengthens jaw muscles.

So oil pulling will help you to improve your oral hygiene. But 20 minutes is a lot of jaw movement. Swishing the oil in your mouth for that long will cause tension around your jaw muscles and even neck pain. And if you suffer from TMJ (temporomandibular joint), then you might feel it difficult to last that long moving your jaw joints.

Swallowing the swished oil might cause diarrhea because it will upset the stomach. People may not swallow but spit the oil in the sink and grease causing the pipes to clog after a long while, therefore spit it in the trash, so you won’t have a plumber fixing your pipes in the future.

Are there any risks of doing oil pulling?

This can be a tricky one to answer. There are a few minor side effects that are easily avoidable and do not cause major issues. Let us explain. People who practice oil pulling might experience some muscle tension specifically in the jaw area or even headaches after oil pulling. The sore jaw or other mentioned side effects resolve by themselves after your body has adjusted to the practice of oil pulling.

In very rare cases, there have been reports of lipoid pneumonia. Lipoid pneumonia is a rare lung disease that happens if lipid-containing or simply oil-containing substances are inhaled. But as we said this has not directly been associated with oil pulling.

Make sure you follow the proper steps to avoid any issues and be safe.

But the question remains, is this suitable for everyone? Let’s see.

Who can do oil pulling?

Oil pulling is generally considered safe for most people, but it may not be suitable for everyone. If you have any medical conditions like dentures, braces, or gum disease, it is best to consult your dentist or healthcare provider before attempting oil pulling.

Additionally, people who have difficulty swishing oil in their mouth or have trouble holding the oil in their mouth for the recommended 15-20 minutes may not find oil pulling to be a suitable practice for them. 

Pregnant and nursing women should also speak with their healthcare provider before trying oil pulling. It is always important to follow safe and recommended practices and to speak with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about the suitability of oil pulling for your individual needs.

Can pregnant woman oil pull?

Yes, adding oil pulling to the oral care routine would work just fine. You see, early pregnancy can affect the mom’s oral health in different lways. For instance:

  • Red swollen gums: Progesterone and estrogen levels get higher than usual during pregnancy, which can contribute to an increasing amount of bad bacteria in the mouth. These bad bacteria get stuck on the plaque, resulting in gingivitis and other complications.
  • Teeth erosion: High levels of progesterone and estrogen also affect a pregnant woman’s gums to become a bit softer and can cause teeth to get loose.
  • Risk of cavities: Due to pregnancy, the diet changes, and one will eat for two. Also, your body might need a fast energy source and you could crave desserts. Food and sugar intake may put pregnant ladies at risk of cavities.

Can children oil pull?

Kids at the age of 6 or older can also swish with oil. The only difference is the portion. Kids take only a teaspoon of oil but adults take a tablespoon. However, if you are a parent and want your child to practice this sort of oral hygiene, 5-10 minutes of swishing oil is enough for your child. You only need to make sure your kid does not swallow the oil after when he/she is done.

Swallowing the oils will upset the stomach and possibly lead to diarrhea. However, kids do not care about these things or have enough patience to do something for 20 minutes. So, half of the period will do just fine.

What if I had a dental treatment…

There is no harm in oil pulling after dental surgeries. After surgeries patients have sensitive gums and teeth, therefore it needs good care and good oral hygiene to maintain dental health. However, practicing oil pulling will not count as a solution but rather as pain relief and tension breaker. The best thing you can do is to listen to your dentist’s advice after dental treatment.


Shanbhag VK. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016 Jun 6;7(1):106-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004. PMID: 28053895; PMCID: PMC5198813.

Kaushik M, Reddy P, Sharma R, Udameshi P, Mehra N, Marwaha A. The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2016;17(1):38-41. Published 2016 Jan 1. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1800

Peedikayil FC, Remy V, John S, Chandru TP, Sreenivasan P, Bijapur GA. Comparison of antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and chlorhexidine on Streptococcus mutans: An in vivo study. J Int Soc Prev Community Dent. 2016 Sep-Oct;6(5):447-452. doi: 10.4103/2231-0762.192934. Epub 2016 Oct 24. PMID: 27891311; PMCID: PMC5109859.

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