Oil Pulling: Useful or Myth?

It’s part of human nature to want to try new things. We love the latest gadgets, novel experiences, and visiting new places. However, sometimes the tried-and-true is actually the best. This adage holds true for oil pulling, a technique that purports to clean teeth and lead to a healthy mouth. There is no evidence that oil pulling provides benefits. In fact, the practice can be harmful.

 

What is Oil Pulling?

Oil pulling may be new to you, but it is an ancient practice. Proponents claim that by swishing sunflower, coconut, or canola oil in the mouth, harmful bacteria are “pulled” or eliminated. Methods vary, but most people swish the oil for a few minutes, then spit it out. Most oil pullers do not use other, more conventional dental hygiene methods, such as teeth brushing.

Enthusiasts of oil pulling assert that it can reduce or eliminate gum disease and tooth decay. There are also claims that oil pulling can relieve other dental problems like foul breath and teeth staining. Many people who turn to oil pulling choose it as an alternative medicine option and dislike or distrust mainstream dentistry.

 

The Evidence

Almost all the evidence in support of oil pulling is simply anecdotal, meaning the evidence only consists of unsubstantiated claims and stories. There are no large-scale, peer-reviewed studies on the risks or benefits of oil pulling. However, the Canadian Dental Association has released an assessment on oil pulling, stating:

“Oil pulling is a suggestive misnomer, implying that something bad is being pulled from the mouth (toxins and bacteria). What little scientific evidence exists shows that it is probably not as effective as standard mouth wash, and what benefit it has is likely entirely due to the mechanical act of swishing to remove particles and bacteria from teeth and gums … Oil pulling for general health or any other indication is pure pseudoscience. Detox claims are based on nothing, as are all detox claims. There is no evidence or plausible rationale to recommend oil pulling for any indication other than as a poor substitute for oral care.”

Small scale studies have also shown that oil pulling provides no benefits when it comes to teeth whitening. Regarding halitosis or bad breath, antiseptic mouthwash performs just as well or better than oil pulling. Furthermore, oil pulling may introduce harmful bacteria into the mouth.

While oil pulling may sound exotic and interesting, you would do much better to stick to proven practices. Daily oral care consisting of flossing, brushing, and using an antiseptic mouthwash is best. Of course, don’t forget to visit your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings.