In case the phrase “oil pulling” is new to you, here’s a quick low-down: it’s a practice that has its origins 3,000 years ago in Ayurvedic medicine, and it is hailed by many natural lifestyle enthusiasts as a way to naturally overall oral health. It involves swishing about one tablespoon of oil (often coconut oil) in the mouth for about 10 to 20 minutes, during which time the oil is meant to draw out bacteria from the crevices of the mouth. Some of the most commonly reported oral health benefits include whiter teeth, fresher breath, cavity prevention, and stronger teeth. But does it really work? Some regular oil pullers swear by it, while many oral health specialists are still wary.
From the American Dental Association
In a nutshell, here is what the American Dental Association (ADA) has stated about oil pulling: “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.” So while it seems that some who have experimented with the practice of oil pulling have seen apparent oral health benefits, so far there simply isn’t enough research to support recommending oil pulling as a daily oral hygiene practice. The ADA added to its statement about oil pulling that brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth once per day with floss or a floss alternative are still the best practices when it comes to strong oral hygiene. The ADA also added, “If individuals need more help to reduce gingivitis, they can add an ADA-Accepted mouthrinse shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis to their oral hygiene regimen … Listerine contains four essential oils (thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate and menthol) as its antiplaque and antigingivitis active ingredient combination. Unlike the oils used in oil pulling, these essential oils are present in small amounts in an aqueous solution that is intended to be swished for 30 seconds, twice a day.”
Some dentists still recommend it.
Even with this report from the ADA, some dentists still stand by recommending oil pulling to their patients. Chicago dentist Jessica T. Emery, DMD, for example, states that while of course oil pulling cannot and should not replace standard dental hygiene practices, it likely still does have its benefits. She states, “There is no question that oil pulling lessens the bacterial load in the mouth.” She adds that when you consider just how many millions of bacteria are in the mouth at any given moment, surely oil pulling can’t hurt.
The bottom line here is that the decision on whether or not to try oil pulling is up to you—just know that the research on it is still ongoing, and it should in no way replace the standard oral hygiene practices of brushing and flossing.