Is Oil-Pulling Your Best Choice for Dental Health?
Should you try oil-pulling for your dental health? Our expert weighs in.
With endorsements coming from celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, you might find it tempting to try oil-pulling – an Indian folk practice that is the latest homeopathic craze.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Oil-pulling is swishing a teaspoon of oil in your mouth for 20 minutes every day, then spitting it out. The traditional oil to use is sesame. But many use coconut oil.
Thousands of YouTube videos extol its purported health benefits. A Google news search brings up thousands of stories – many written during the last few weeks.
But the evidence-based bottom line on oil-pulling is this:
For centuries, people used this practice every day to prevent tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, throat dryness and cracked lips.
The more enthusiastic proponents of oil-pulling claim it cures everything from a hangover to diabetes or acne.
There is some limited evidence that oil-pulling, particularly with coconut oil, could inhibit plaque formation, says integrative medicine specialist Lyla Blake-Gumbs, MD.
“There is some evidence that oil-pulling could be helpful in reducing the plaque index and the bacterial burden in the mouth,” Dr. Blake-Gumbs says.
It’s important to know, however, that oil-pulling should not take the place of good, consistent dental hygiene, Dr. Blake-Gumbs says. That means brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing once daily.
Oil-pulling is not going to whiten your teeth, clear your sinuses or cure your diabetes, despite what proponents say.
“There is no research to corroborate all of these other health claims,” Dr. Blake-Gumbs says.
“You can make the stretch that oral health can support systemic health – that there are benefits downstream,” she says.
“But to date there is no scientific research that oil-pulling is a direct mechanism of action for these other conditions. And no current evidence suggests that improving oral hygiene alone will improve diabetes or other chronic conditions.”