Worried that your teeth look stained or mossy?
Self-conscious that every time you open your mouth, your friends have to deal with your bad breath?
Well, you may have heard that the solution is “oil pulling.”
Just about every “natural health” website on the internet has an article about this alternative medicine technique.
Allegedly, swishing oil around your mouth for 10-20 minutes helps clean your teeth and gums, kill germs, and prevent tooth decay.
Not only that, it’s supposed to also “pull” toxins out of your body through your mouth. Hence the name.
Oil pulling is cheap and easy, and there’s a fairly large group of adherents saying it works, so why not try it?
While it’s true that oil pulling might be better than nothing for your teeth, it’s still probably not worth your time.
By the end of this article, you’ll learn how oil pulling works, and why it really boils down to a harmless and mostly useless way to spend 20 minutes.
- What is Oil Pulling?
- Oil Pulling and Your Health
- Oil Pulling and Your Teeth
- The Bottom Line on Oil Pulling
Table of Contents
Oil pulling is an ayurvedic medicine technique that calls for swishing oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes.
Proponents claim that this has two major benefits:
First, oil pulling supposedly acts as a magnet for harmful chemicals, soaking them up through your mouth.
The second reason people use oil pulling is to clean their mouth and teeth. Supposedly, oil works just as well as traditional mouthwashes, without the harsh chemicals.
Let’s see how these claims stand up to the evidence.
Like many alternative health practices, oil pulling is mainly supposed to remove toxins from your body.
The difference, is that instead of removing toxins from your liver, colon, or other organ of choice, oil pulling removes them from your mouth. Or so they say.
The specific “toxins” these people talk about are never named, and there is zero scientific evidence that oil pulling has any effect on your overall health.
Nor is there any possible justification for how this might work. Your body is well equipped to defend against poisons that make their way into your system.
Whenever you hear someone claim that a single trick is the key to perfect health, it’s a safe bet they aren’t on the level.
There are a few things that really do improve just about everything about your health.
On the other hand, there is no evidence that oil pulling does much of anything except make your teeth a little cleaner.
In this regard, oil pulling is really just another phony “detox” product.
That said, it also probably doesn’t hurt. So, if you feel like spending 20 minutes of your day sloshing oil around your mouth, go for it.
Just make sure you don’t inhale any of it, as that can damage your lungs.
Proponents claim that oil pulling is one of the best ways to clean your teeth and cut down on bad breath.
There have only been a few studies on oil pulling, and they aren’t completely negative.
One study found that oil pulling reduced harmful bacteria in the mouth after people used it for 1-2 weeks.
That’s better than nothing, but the traditional mouthwash in the same study reduced bad bacteria far more quickly and consistently.
It only took about 24 hours for regular mouthwash to work, but it took at least 7 times that long for oil pulling to have any effect.
Another study found that oil pulling reduced bad breath, and the bacteria that cause it, as much as regular mouth rinse.
That’s about it as far as the peer-reviewed research goes. There are a few other obscure studies, but they have never been thoroughly vetted.
The little research that is available shows that traditional mouthwash is still better.
Regular mouthwash is also much more convenient, only needing 30-60 seconds instead of 10-20 minutes with oil pulling. Plus, it doesn’t leave an oily mess in your sink.
If you feel that the mouthwash you’re using is too harsh (and some of them are pretty rough), try one that’s alcohol free.
The burning sensation you get from some mouthwash is usually caused by the alcohol content.
So, oil pulling is likely better than nothing for cleaning your teeth, but that isn’t saying much.
If you’re skeptical at the idea of swishing oil around your mouth to improve your health, then you’re right.
There’s no evidence it’s any better than regular oral hygiene methods like brushing your teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash.
It’s never been proven to help rid your body of toxins or improve your health in any way.
Unlike some other alternative medicine techniques, however, oil pulling is cheap and relatively harmless.