Oil Pulling Debunked: What You Need to Know

by | Apr 20, 2021 | Teeth Whitening

An ultra-white toothy smile might be something that everyone wants. The question is, what are you doing about it?

Social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are teeming with bizarre DIY ideas for teeth whitening. Influencers have their say on most things, from rubbing banana peels on your teeth to adding soda to your paste. One of the latest fads says that coconut oil can solve all your dental problems.

So, does it work?

While gargling sure has oral benefits, we are unsure if gargling with oil can beat plaques or whiten teeth.


Oil Pulling Debunked: What You Need to Know


What is oil pulling?

In the oil pulling or swishing technique, you have to take a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, gargle it for about 15 minutes, and then spit it out.

Alternatively, you can use sesame and sunflower oils too, which is an affordable home remedy. Some try oil pulling on an empty stomach to prevent feeling nauseous.

Interestingly, while this is thought to be an Ayurvedic technique, Ayurveda texts have no mention of oil pulling.

In fact, several Ayurveda practitioners have never heard of oil swishing. There is the ‘gandusa’ technique in Ayurveda that comes close to what we today call ‘oil pulling.’ But for gandusa, you just hold the oil in your mouth until the ‘kapha’ (secretions) accumulate in your mouth.


How does it work?

Those who have tried oil pulling swear by its effectiveness. They say that their teeth appear whiter, bad breath vanishes, and the mouth becomes free of bacteria.

The method works by pulling out bacteria and other toxins from nooks and crannies of the mouth. But it might just be the mechanical movement that happens when you’ swish’. The actions may pull the bacteria out.

When you spit out, you will notice that the oil has turned frothy and white. This is what many people believe to be toxins and bacteria. But if you mix oil and water and shake the mixture, it turns white for a while before separating again. So, the white liquid formed after pulling may not necessarily contain bacteria.


Health claims of oil pulling

If you look at social media posts, blogs, or tabloids, they make bold claims about oil pulling benefits. They say oil pulling can cure:

  • Bad breath
  • Plaque buildup
  • Toxins
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum diseases
  • Dry mouth syndrome
  • Asthma
  • Insomnia
  • Cardiac problems
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes


Young woman gargling


Oil pulling and oral health: Is there a connection?

Some also say that oil pulling is believed to enhance your oral health. But does it really help?

Manage bad breath

If we consider that coconut oil pulling does flush out bacteria, it can get rid of bad breath. But your mouthwash probably has mint, which is more effective in combating malodor. Your mouthwash is proven to have oral benefits. Even gel toothpaste can eliminate the odor.

Control plaque buildup

You swish the oil in between and around in your mouth.
These movements can mobilize or pull tartar in between the teeth but cannot replace flossing. Flossing is far more effective in dealing with plaque and tartar.

Can replace mouthwash

The act of rinsing or swishing can be a good workout for your mouth, jaw, and cheeks. Due to the viscosity of oil, the muscles in our mouth need additional effort to move the oil back and forth. This will undoubtedly enhance blood circulation in those tissues and lead to healthier gums.

But several studies have proven that no oil is as effective as regular mouthwash. Further, there is not enough evidence to prove that oil is a natural substitute for mouthwash.

Can whiten teeth

Does coconut oil whiten teeth? No.

Swishing claims to pull bacteria out of your mouth. Nobody ever said anything about teeth-whitening. If you ask your dentist about this, they will tell you that oil cannot whiten teeth. You can remove the stains on your teeth quickly with brushing.

Whitened teeth and pinker gums can be the result of increased muscle movement and regular gargling. You can achieve this with flossing and mouth wash too. You don’t have to go out of the way and try some herbal oils. If nothing works, you can simply opt for whitening at your dentists.

Can cure oral health problems

There is no scientific backing for the health claims made by blogs or beauty gurus. Oil pulling may have slight benefits for oral care. But there is no reason why you should replace your brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.


Is there scientific evidence to support this practice?

As of today, there is little to no scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of oil swishing. In fact, most of the blogs you will see are just personal accounts or lifestyle blogs promoting a new fad.

In a recent article, the American Dental Association stated how the practice has no reliable scientific studies to back it. Instead, focus on the basics for healthier teeth – like avoiding tobacco and brushing twice a day.

While oil gargling seems harmless, some studies have pointed out that excessive swishing can lead to lipoid pneumonia. This happens when you accidentally breathe in oil, and it gets accumulated in your lungs. If you accidentally swallow the oil, you may get an upset stomach.



Oil pulling teeth is no alternative to brushing and flossing. Oil gargles certainly cannot replace your dentist.
If you’re still looking to use oil pulling, you can use it as additional care to prevent bad breath, plaque buildup, or add some shine to your teeth.

However, oil pulling has few advantages when it comes to treating some serious dental problems. The claim that it can whiten your teeth is mostly hearsay. At best, oil pulling may be a replacement for mouthwash. Any research remains very limited as of today.

If you’ve any dental worries, reach out to us here in Laguna Vista Dental. Your Elk Grove dentist would help you know more about our customer-friendly dental services. We offer preventive cleanings when you need them, and our services range from oral surgeries to root canals and fillings.

Book your next dentist appointment with us today.

Krystle Fenton

Krystle Fenton

Krystle Fenton is the owner and lead dentist at Laguna Vista Dental in Elk Grove, CA. Dr. She has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Andrews University. She then went on to Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, where she graduated with honors and is a member of the prestigious Omicron Kappa Upsilon (OKU) National Dental Honor Society. Dr. Fenton is a member of the American Dental Association, California Dental Association, and Sacramento District Dental Society. In her time away from the office, Dr. Fenton enjoys spending time with friends and family, traveling, spending time outdoors and watching movies.

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