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Oil Pulling for Dental Health - Is it Beneficial?

By Eugene D. Stanislaus on September 06, 2014


A smiling man with white teethYou may have noticed the term oil pulling popping up all over social media. The claims are big: oil pulling will make your teeth whiter, reverse tooth decay, remove toxins - but does this practice really work? As with most folk remedies, there is little scientific research to support such anecdotal claims. What is known is that oil pulling cannot repair dental damage. Dental damage must be repaired with restorative dentistry treatments, not folk remedies. To help you understand oil pulling and its affect on oral health, the dentists of Brooklyn Heights Dental offer the following discussion.

What Is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling is an ancient folk remedy that has been practiced for centuries in India and southern Asia. Oil pulling is done by swishing a tablespoon of oil, typically coconut, in the mouth and between the teeth for about 20 minutes. After this point, the oil is spit out and the mouth is rinsed with plain water or salt water. The teeth should then be brushed and flossed as normal.

Part of the oil pulling belief is that swishing and “pulling” the oil between the teeth and in the mouth helps remove toxins from the body and bacteria from the mouth. The oil is also supposed to strengthen the gums and teeth, improving overall oral health. Other claims are that oil pulling whitens the teeth and reduces the risk of cavities, with some even believing it will reverse decay.

Is Oil Pulling Beneficial to Dental Health?

The practice of oil pulling lacks the scientific research to say if it is truly effective or beneficial to oral health. The studies that do exist lack a large enough sample size and scientific controls, making them unreliable for determining any cause and effect. To date, no clinical evidence has been found to support claims that oil pulling can whiten teeth, reduce dental decay, or improve overall health. There is no evidence showing oil pulling can reverse tooth decay or eliminate gum disease.

Though oil pulling requires more scientific research, the simple act of rinsing the mouth and swishing between the teeth may help remove food remnants, plaque, and bacteria. However, this can also be done with water so it's likely not the oil that's beneficial but rather the swishing.

In short, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims of oil pulling. It should not be used as a substitute for brushing, flossing, or rinsing with an American Dental Association approved mouthwash.

Should You Try Oil Pulling?

Though there is little scientific evidence supporting the health claims of oil pulling, there doesn't seem to be much harm caused by the practice. That being said, oil pulling alone is not enough to keep your teeth and gums healthy, so it should never replace a proper oral hygiene regime of brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist for check-ups. It should also not be used to replace dentist-approved mouthwash or be used in place of any other medically approved medication or practice. 

Schedule a Consultation

To discuss your concerns about oil pulling or to find out more information about clinically supported treatments, we welcome you to schedule a consultation.

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