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Is Oil Pulling a Safe Practice?

By Jill Feilmeier on July 10, 2014 in Dental Health


Oil pulling has been in the news and all over social media as of late. The practice of using oil to potentially help improve oral health conditions involves swishing or holding oil in your mouth to clean your teeth and gums. But does it work?

Well, there is a lack of evidence to support that oil pulling has any oral health benefits.

Fortunately, there are time-tested behaviors that we know work to help improve oral health:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss between teeth once a day

Though oil pulling only recently came to note in American pop culture, it is an ancient folk remedy from India and southern Asian cultures.

To clean the mouth, you're supposed to hold vegetable-based oil (like olive or sesame) in your mouth anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes. But, as is true with many folk remedies, oil pulling just doesn’t have scientific or peer-reviewed literature to back up its claims.  Many of the studies that do exist on oil pulling have clear problems, including a small sample size or lack of blinding.  We do know, however, that there are potential adverse affects of this practice, including upset stomach, diarrhea, aspiration of the oil and even some cases of lipoid pneumonia[1].

So, while this practice might seem like an interesting remedy to try, we recommend sticking to the things that are proven to work– brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and visiting your dentist.

[1] Kim JY, Jung JW, Choi JC, et al.  Recurrent lipoid pneumonia associated with oil pulling.  Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2014 Feb;18(2):251-2