Oral Health Facts vs. Myth: Does Oil Pulling Actually Work Better Than Toothpaste?

January 28, 2021

Have you heard of oil pulling? This oral hygiene practice was developed around 3,000 years ago in India, but it has recently experienced a resurgence as the latest health fad. So what is oil pulling? Is it safe to do? And is it actually more effective than daily brushing? The staff at American Dental is here to separate the fact from myth regarding oil pulling; here’s our take on this ancient practice.

What is Oil Pulling?

Developed in ancient times as a way of keeping the mouth healthy, oil pulling involves swishing approximately 1 tablespoon of oil in the mouth for about 20 minutes and then spitting it out. Coconut oil is probably the most commonly used oil for this practice, thanks to its mild antibacterial properties, although sesame oil, sunflower oil, and other oils can also be used.

Is Oil Pulling Safe and Effective?

If you’re interested in trying out oil pulling, you should know that the dental community does consider it to be safe. As long as you are not allergic to the oil you’re using and you do not swallow the bacteria-laden oil during or after swishing, everything should be fine.

As for the efficacy of oil pulling, few official studies have been performed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that oil pulling works similarly to mouth wash, removing bacteria from the mouth. Swishing with oil has the added benefit of getting into hard-to-reach areas between the teeth and along the gumline. If performed regularly and in conjunction with your usual oral hygiene practices, oil pulling can help to prevent bad breath, tooth decay, gingivitis, and other conditions that stem from an overgrowth of bacteria or fungi in the mouth.

Of course, some holistic practitioners claim myriad benefits to be had by oil pulling. Once again, the health benefits of oil pulling have not been evaluated in any peer-reviewed studies, so be wary of any claims that involve “removing toxins” or anything beyond the realm of oral health.

Is Oil Pulling More Effective than Brushing?

While many dental professionals support the idea of oil pulling as something that may be beneficial and has no obvious harmful side effects, it’s important to clarify that any benefits from oil pulling will be lost if you attempt to use it as a replacement for brushing, flossing, mouthwash, and regular dental checkups. 

To be perfectly clear: Oil pulling is NOT more effective than brushing and should never be used to replace any of your current oral health practices. 

You may experience benefits from oil pulling when used in conjunction with those practices. If you would like to try oil pulling, we suggest adding it to your current routine of brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, swishing with mouthwash, and visiting the dentist for a checkup every 6 months. Be sure to inform your dentist that you are oil pulling so they give you more specific recommendations about how to practice it safely.

If you are a Chicago area resident and have any questions about oil pulling, or you need any other dental services like cosmetic dentistry, restorative dentistry, or orthodontics, feel free to schedule an appointment with American Dental. Visit our appointment page to find the American Dental location closest to you and schedule your appointment online today!

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