Skip Navigation

Teeth Insights relies on readers. We may earn commissions when you purchase through our links. Check Affiliate Disclosure

Does Oil Pulling Improve Oral Health?

When it comes to oral health, people are always on the lookout for natural remedies and alternative therapies that can enhance their dental hygiene routine. One such practice that has gained popularity in recent years is oil pulling. But what exactly is oil pulling, and does it improve oral health? 

In this comprehensive article, we will explore the concept of oil pulling and its potential benefits for oral health. We’ll delve into the details, answering frequently asked questions along the way and providing you with all the information you need to make an informed decision about incorporating oil pulling into your oral care routine.

Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that involves swishing oil around in your mouth for a specific period, usually around 15-20 minutes, and then spitting it out. Traditionally, sesame oil was used for oil pulling, but nowadays, people also use other oils such as coconut oil, sunflower oil, or olive oil.

How Does Oil Pulling Work?

During oil pulling, the oil acts as a natural cleanser by trapping bacteria, toxins, and other harmful substances in the mouth. 

As you swish the oil around, it penetrates between the teeth and reaches the gum line, pulling out impurities from these areas. 

The oil also mixes with saliva, and as you continue to swish, it helps remove the bacteria and plaque buildup that can lead to oral health problems.

Does Oil Pulling Improve Oral Health?

Yes, oil pulling has been claimed to improve oral health by its proponents. 

However, it’s important to note that scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of oil pulling is limited, and more research is needed to fully understand its benefits. 

That said, some studies and anecdotal reports suggest that oil pulling may have potential advantages for oral health.

1. Reduced Harmful Bacteria

Oil pulling has been found to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Research has shown that swishing oil in the mouth can help eliminate bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, which is a major contributor to tooth decay and gum disease. By reducing the bacterial load, oil pulling may contribute to better oral health.

2. Improved Gum Health

Gum health is essential for overall oral health, and oil pulling might help in this regard. Some studies suggest that oil pulling can reduce plaque formation and gingivitis, a common gum disease characterized by inflammation and bleeding gums. By promoting healthier gums, oil pulling may contribute to improved oral health.

3. Fresher Breath

Another claimed benefit of oil pulling is fresher breath. By removing bacteria and toxins from the mouth, oil pulling may help reduce bad breath or halitosis. Although more research is needed to confirm this effect, many individuals practicing oil pulling have reported experiencing improved breath freshness.

4. Potential Teeth Whitening

Some proponents of oil pulling claim that it can also whiten teeth. While there is limited scientific evidence to support this claim, some people have reported a brightening effect on their teeth after regularly practicing oil pulling. It’s important to note that oil pulling should not replace professional teeth whitening methods if you are seeking significant whitening results.

5. Overall Oral Hygiene Enhancement

Oil pulling is often used as a complementary practice alongside regular oral hygiene routines such as brushing and flossing. When combined with these essential habits, oil pulling may enhance overall oral hygiene and contribute to a cleaner and healthier mouth.

Potential Side Effects and Concerns 

The use of essential oils and other types of oils has grown in popularity for a variety of wellness and therapeutic reasons. However, it’s essential to be informed about the potential side effects and concerns related to their usage. Let’s delve into the provided points:

1. Allergic Reactions to Specific Oils:

Some people may experience allergic reactions when they come into contact with certain oils. This can manifest as skin irritation, rash, itching, or even more severe reactions in rare cases.

It’s always recommended to do a patch test before using any oil extensively. A patch test involves applying a small amount of diluted oil to a patch of skin and observing for any adverse reactions over 24 hours.

People with known allergies, especially to certain plants or their families, should be cautious when using oils derived from those plants.

2. Diarrhea or Upset Stomach if Oil is Swallowed:

Some oils can be toxic if ingested, even in small amounts. They can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or more severe toxic effects.

It’s essential to keep essential oils out of reach of children, as they might ingest them accidentally.

Always consult with a healthcare provider or expert before ingesting any oil.

3. Possible Lipid Pneumonia if Oil Enters the Lungs:

Lipid pneumonia is a specific type of pneumonia that occurs when lipids (fats/oils) enter the lungs, causing inflammation.

This can happen if oils are aspirated into the lungs, which might occur if someone tries to ingest them and chokes, causing the oil to enter the airway.

It’s also a concern when people use oil-based products in devices like vaporizers or nebulizers, as these might introduce tiny droplets of oil directly into the lungs.

4. Interaction with Dental Restorations or Fillings:

Some essential oils, particularly those with acidic properties, can potentially interact with dental materials, causing them to break down or erode over time.

For instance, excessive or undiluted use of citrus oils (like lemon or orange oil) might affect dental restorations due to their acidic nature.

It’s always a good practice to discuss with your dentist if you’re regularly using any essential oils orally or around the mouth area.


While the practice of oil pulling has gained popularity in recent years, scientific evidence supporting its benefits for oral health is limited. Nevertheless, many individuals have reported positive experiences with oil pulling, including reduced harmful bacteria, improved gum health, fresher breath, and potential teeth whitening. If you’re interested in trying oil pulling, it’s essential to view it as a complementary practice to regular oral hygiene habits and consult with your dentist or oral healthcare professional for guidance.