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What Is Oil Pulling?

The ABCs of Oil Pulling: What Is It and Should You Try It?

Over the last few days, we've been talking nonstop about the latest detox phenomenon called oil pulling, the act of swishing oil around your mouth. Now, gargling with oil may sound unappealing, but it has been an Ayurvedic practice since ancient times. It's said that oil pulling can do everything from whiten teeth to cure eczema. On the fence about trying it? Read the facts below to see if it's the right treatment for you!

What Is It?

The process is simple. Swish a spoonful of oil (coconut, sunflower, or sesame are most popular) in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes. Then spit it out in the trash — not down the toilet or in the sink because that will only up your plumbing bill.

How It Works

"People swear by it — that it can fill cavities, relieve toothaches, whiten teeth, freshen breath, absorb harmful bacteria, and cure the common cold," said Dr. Jessica Emery, DMD of Sugar Fix Dental Loft Chicago. "From a dentist's perspective, tooth decay is caused by bacteria and studies suggest that coconut oil treated with enzymes seems to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria." Some would also claim that it fixes acne and brightens complexions.


So in layman's terms, the oil actually pulls germs and bacteria from your gums (and we found one study to back up this up claim). Overall the process is about removing the toxins from the mouth before they can travel to other parts of the body.

Should You Try It?

There is substantial evidence that oil pulling could improve your oral health, and it's a great DIY solution if you run out of mouthwash (be it a bit slimy). But as far as the claims that it's a cure-all, we're going to take our cue from Dr. Weil, who wrote, "Bottom line: Oil pulling won't hurt you, but I wouldn't depend on it to help you improve your overall health or treat significant medical problems."

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Mark Popovich
Lizzi74 Lizzi74 3 years

I've been oil pulling for months now. I love it! It's helped my teeth, gums, and sinuses. My tooth pain is gone, my sinuses are clearer.

chelseapearl chelseapearl 3 years

This has been something on my list to try for a while! Something else I read is just be sure to use an oil that's cold-pressed, organic, unrefined, raw, or as pure as you can find!

nicsuss972 nicsuss972 3 years

It's not that bad, just do your morning stuff and it flies by. Make coffee, shower, get dressed, let the dog out blah blah

nicsuss972 nicsuss972 3 years

Don't brush or drink water before doing it.

Erika15427749 Erika15427749 3 years

I had the same thought -- is this a typo? I'd rather swish mouthwash for 10 to 20 seconds...

peachbonnet peachbonnet 3 years

I did try it this morning with coconut oil after brushing my teeth. I'm still not completely sold that it will change anything, but I'm willing to keep trying it for a week or so to see if there's a difference.

peachbonnet peachbonnet 3 years

I often think that when people started doing this in India thousands of years ago, it probably was very beneficial to killing bacteria, preventing cavities, and gum disease. But now modern toothbrushes and toothpaste probably do a better job.

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