Oil pulling is nothing new, but the ancient oral-care practice has found itself under a social-media spotlight as of late. With such widespread hype, we have one question: Do dentists actually recommend oil pulling?
What is oil pulling?
“Oil pulling is a 3,000 to 5,000 year-old Ayurvedic method, which was developed in India to remove unwanted bacteria or toxins from the mouth,” says Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS. “To do this, you need an oil like coconut, sesame or olive oil. You swish it around in your mouth for 15 minutes before spitting it out.”
Dr. Goldstein says the main purpose of oil pulling is to erase oil-soluble toxins from your body. “One study showed it has an effect on reducing mouth odor,” he says. “Other studies recommend it for treating certain diseases.”
Although this method may seem a bit out of the ordinary, Los Altos, CA cosmetic dentist Joseph Field, DDS says there can be some improvement to gum health. “The key is to consult with your oral health professional to ensure proper steps are being followed.”
Is oil pulling dentist-recommended?
Dr. Field says that there is limited data and studies showing the true benefits of oil pulling. For this reason, the American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend oil pulling as a treatment modality. “However, for patients with gum disease, it makes sense to use a range of treatments,” he says. “Even if the benefits are minimal, it is an easy and inexpensive procedure to add to your daily routine.”
On the other hand, Dr. Goldstein “does not endorse the technique as any part of a proper routine for best oral care because the ADA criticizes the various studies as unreliable.” Instead of oil pulling, New York cosmetic dentist Timothy Chase, DMD recommends keeping up with a good oral hygiene regime. “This includes brushing with a soft bristle brush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, a tongue scraper and non-alcohol mouthwash.”
As the ADA reports, “There are no reliable scientific studies to show that oil pulling reduces cavities, whitens teeth or improves oral health and well-being. Based on the lack of scientific evidence, the ADA does not recommend oil pulling as a dental hygiene practice. The ADA recommends brushing twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and flossing your teeth once per day to maintain good dental health.” Also, they advise against using tobacco.
It oil pulling a substitute for mouthwash?
Dr. Chase says a non-alcohol mouthwash, or one with fluoride, is better than oil pulling. “Two studies did find that oil pulling was as effective as chlorhexidine (antiseptic mouthwash),” says Dr. Goldstein. “However, chlorhexidine mouthwash requires one minute of swishing, whereas oil pulling takes 15 minutes. Many patients complain of even the one minute rinse!”
Are there any risks involved with oil pulling?
“Be aware of what kind of oil you are using and look at all of the ingredients,” says Dr. Field. “Some people may develop an allergy with certain types of oils.” He also adds that it is dangerous to use oil pulling as a replacement for other dental essentials. “I have told patients who inquired about the technique that it does not help prevent decay or remove plaque. You still need to brush properly for optimal gum care,” says Dr. Goldstein. “Swishing for 15 minutes can also eventually stress the temporomandibular muscles, causing both jaw pain and headaches.”