What is oil pulling for oral health? Is it effective?

You brush, floss, and gargle with mouthwash to clean your mouth. But have you ever considered using oil for oral hygiene?

Oil pulling for oral health is an ancient tradition in India. It involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes before spitting it out.

You may know someone practicing and enjoying it and are wondering if it works. Let's talk about the suggested benefits of oil pulling and whether it's good for your oral health.

How does oil pulling work?

Oil pulling is believed to get rid of bacteria in the mouth and enhance oral hygiene.

The mouth is a gateway to the human body. Microorganisms enter the body through it. That’s why maintaining good oral health is crucial. Several oral health care products are available in the market. But some consumers prefer traditional practices, one of which is oil pulling.

Oil pulling is an ancient Indian therapy for boosting oral hygiene. Oil is easily accessible, making the practice easily adaptable too. It's ideally done in the morning, with an empty stomach.

The gargling motion pulls the oil back and forth or across all directions in the mouth. Hence the term, oil pulling. But you need to be careful so as not to swallow the oil. After about 20 minutes, you can spit the oil. Then, you wash your mouth thoroughly with tap water and brush your teeth as usual.

Possible benefits of oil pulling

Here are some of the benefits associated with oil pulling for oral health.

  1. Reducing harmful bacteria

    Billions of bacteria live in the mouth. While some are good, others can be harmful.

    A study participated by people with dental caries showed reduced bacterial count after 40 days of oil-pulling. The average reduction rate was 20%. Researchers then concluded that sesame oil could minimize bacterial growth and adhesion. And that oil can trap toxins in the body and be expelled through the tongue. (1)

    Another research assessed the effects of oil pulling with coconut oil in improving oral health. Forty studies were included in the review. (2)

    Authors concluded it’s difficult to determine whether oil pulling is beneficial for oral health. They stressed the absence of strong evidence and added that further research is needed to determine the impact of the practice on improving dental hygiene. (2)

  2. Rinsing and cleaning the mouth

    In a randomized controlled study, 60 subjects were divided into three groups. (3)

    One group rinsed with 10 ml of coconut oil for 10 minutes. The other used 5 ml Chlorhexidine mouthwash for 1 minute. And the last group gargled 5 ml distilled water for 1 minute in the morning before brushing. (3)

    Saliva samples were collected on the 1st day and after 2 weeks. Researchers reported reduced amounts of Streptococcus mutans in both the coconut oil pulling and Chlorhexidine groups. They concluded that oil pulling can be explored as a safe and effective alternative to chlorhexidine. (3)

    Streptococcus mutans is the agent primarily responsible for dental caries, decay, and cavities.

  3. Reducing plaque and gum disease

    A study among 60 boys and girls aged 16-18 with plaque and gingivitis was done. Oil pulling was added to their oral hygiene routine for 30 days. (4)

    At the end of the study, they were assessed again, and researchers found lower plaque and gingival indices starting from day 7. Scores then saw a continuous decline throughout the study. (4)

    The authors then concluded that oil pulling with coconut oil could be effective in helping minimize plaque buildup and gingivitis. (4)

Should I also include oil pulling in my dental care routine?

While oil pulling may have benefits to oral health as suggested by various studies, research is still limited.

If you’ve tried it before and feel it's making a positive impact on your mouth, note that it still shouldn't be deemed a substitute for oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing.

Professional hygiene cleanings are still necessary. It’s best to speak with your dental hygienist or dentist before adopting the practice. Find out if it'll be a wise addition to your home care routine.

Oil is affordable and easy to find, but it isn’t the solution to all oral health concerns. Yes, it may be used as a supplementary method. But depending on the results you want, dentist-administered options can be more effective.

Are you looking to boost your oral hygiene routine?

Are you looking to boost your oral hygiene routine?

Our team at Smyl Dentistry in Toronto, Ontario, has over 20 years of industry experience. We understand every patient is unique, so we exercise utmost care in customizing oral hygiene programs.

Let's help you achieve happier smiles and make your journey as comfortable as possible. Call us today to get started.


  1. Effect of oil-pulling on dental caries causing bacteria


  2. The effect of oil pulling with coconut oil to improve dental hygiene and oral health: A systematic review


  3. The Effect of Coconut Oil pulling on Streptococcus mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison with Chlorhexidine Mouthwash


  4. Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis - A preliminary report