Oil Pulling? What is it? How does it Work?

General, Cosmetic, Restorative,
TMJ & Sleep Apnea Dentists
Spring, Conroe, The Woodlands &
Nearby North Houston, Texas


What exactly is oil pulling?  If you been on Pinterest or the Internet in the last 6 months you have probably heard about oil pulling.  Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic procedure that is said to boost oral and overall health by withdrawing toxins. 
The procedure is pretty straightforward: take any vegetable oil, such as, coconut, olive or sunflower, and vigorously swish it around your mouth for 20 minutes, then spit it out.  Don't gargle, don't swallow.  Repeat daily.  In simplified terms, by doing this, the oil purportedly detoxifies and cleans our mouth by binding with oral bacteria (hence, the “pulling” away of toxins from your mouth) that you later spit out with the oil.  The bacteria in our mouth is covered with a fat membrane and is attracted to the oil, so oil is far better at pulling.
There are two beliefs as to why this may work: first, it's thought that by swishing the oil like a mouthwash, it cleanses the mouth of bacteria due to its antimicrobial properties.  Secondly, the oil is thought to coat the surface of the teeth, creating a slippery barrier that prevents bacterial buildup.

Here's what a host of experts across various disciplines are saying so you can judge for yourself.

Bruce Fife, a certified nutritionist, naturopathic physician, and author or the book Oil Pulling Therapy says the first benefit is better oral health — whiter teeth, healthier gums, decreased oral infections.
Fife recommends adding it to (read: NOT replacing) your flossing and brushing for the best results.

Rachael Porntillo, AADP board-certified health coach and licensed aesthetician, is also a supporter of oil pulling.  According to Pontillo, the oil is an antimicrobial because of its liquid makeup, which allows it to get into places where toothbrushes, floss, and even advanced tools with Waterpiks and dental cleaning instruments can't.  The oil leaves behind a slippery residue, prevent microbes from “sticking” to those areas in the future.  She suggests that you don't brush afterwards or you'll remove the protective covering.

Edward Hewlett, DDS, a Professor of Restorative Dentistry and Associate Dean of UCLA School of Dentistry stated, “There is no evidence to support the use of oil pulling to improve oral health.”
He adds, “During the swishing of the oil for the typically recommended 15 to 20 minutes, saliva breaks down some of the oil and mixes with it to form what is esssentially a soap which may attribute to that fresh and clean feeling you get post-pulling.”
Bottom line for Hewitt: Stick to flossing, fluoride, healthy eating habits, and regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Luke Cronin, DDS from North Sydney, Australia, and founder of the site Ask the Dentist stated, “The data coming out of the limited clinical studies to date infer that brushing and flossing remain more effective than oil pulling.”  “The question people need to ask themselves is even if oil pulling could reduce bacteria to the same extent as brushing and flossing, would they choose and maintain a daily routine of 20 minutes of oil pulling every morning prior to eating breakfast?”
His take: “Nothing beats a modern day toothbrush, tooth paste, and floss.”

My opinion is that daily brushing and flossing in addition to consistent hygiene maintenance visits will always be the gold standard for optimal oral health.  Anything else you do to reduce the buildup of bacterial biofilm is an added bonus!

Forever Smiles to All!